Photo Credits: TIMOTHY LI / AGGIE / Coffee House employees held a demonstration at Mrak Hall on Thursday, Nov. 7, 2019. CoHo workers walk out during their shift in protest of the UCPath issues, resulting in paycheck delays over two months. (Photo by Timothy Li / Aggie)
Similar issues seen when UCPath rolled out at other UC campuses in recent years
UCPath, the UC’s centralized payroll and human resources system, completed its implementation at UC Davis in late September. Since that time, undergraduate student workers, as well as graduate student readers and teaching assistants, have reported late, incorrect or nonexistent payments.
On Thursday, these issues culminated in a three-hour walk-out organized by employees at the CoHo, leading the university to announce that Chancellor Gary S. May “has directed that all student employees be paid what is owed them immediately.”
Problems with UCPath are not unique to UC Davis. Since the system was announced in 2012, it has been plagued with delays and issues at every campus it has been implemented at. The project was also significantly delayed and far exceeded the initial projected cost — while the UC claims the project cost an estimated $504 million, a state audit estimates the actual cost to be $942 million, triple the initial projected cost of $306 million.
UCPath, an acronym for the UC’s Payroll, Academic Personnel, Timekeeping and Human Resources, is an effort to consolidate the payroll systems of the different campuses into one system, headquartered in Riverside. It has been rolled out in waves, starting with a launch at the UC Office of the President in 2015. At this time last year, UCLA students were protesting payment issues at their campus.
In March, it was announced that the UC system would compensate over 700 of its workers that had experienced payment issues — something the United Auto Workers 2865, a labor union that represents student workers, fought for.
The union asked the university to postpone the launch date of UCPath at UC Davis, initially set for April 1, 2019, according to Thomas Hintze, the northern vice president of UAW 2865. UC President Janet Napolitano eventually announced that it would do so, citing “a large number of employee records improperly converted after several test periods.”
Despite the delay, issues with pay arose. During the CoHo’s midday rush on Thursday, the majority of employees walked out with signs and gathered outside, where they shared their experiences with spectators. Among those who spoke was ASUCD Vice President Shreya Deshpande who called it “ridiculous” that so many students had not been paid all quarter.
Students made their way to Mrak Hall, the building that houses the UC Davis administration offices. Emily Galindo, the interim vice chancellor for Student Affairs, came downstairs to talk to the students who were shouting and chanting their complaints. She stated that out of the 3,000 students employed by Student Affairs, the majority of them are getting paid.
“Unless every student gets paid, your system is not successful,” said one of the students that organized the walk-out.
Students called for a response from the chancellor. May, who was in Atlanta on Wednesday receiving an award for his work with Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg on Aggie Square, was not present.
Adam Hatefi, the ASUCD external affairs vice president, pointed out the fact that the administration had not communicated about the possibility of problems with payment effectively. Hintze echoed a similar sentiment, saying that “Graduate Studies could have opened up a more clear communication line with students about the issues that could happen.”
Kelly Ratliff, the vice chancellor for finance, operations and administration, spoke with students protesting in Mrak, eliciting a heated reaction when she stated, “I am UCPath.”
Before students left Mrak to continue marching through campus, they told Ratliff and Galindo that if they do not receive the next paycheck they are owed on Nov. 13, they would file for wage theft with the US Department of Labor.
Later, in an email statement sent to The California Aggie, Ratliff said “the feedback we heard today prompted us to create a way for a student to receive emergency cash. Students can apply online for a UCPath Emergency Pay Advance. Financial Aid will expedite approval, generally the same day. Students will be notified of approval by email and can go to the Cashier’s Office in Dutton Hall to receive cash. Advances are up to $1,000, interest-free and are due on January 15.”
Ratliff and Galindo also sent out an email to all students Thursday evening informing them of this option.
Though employees of the CoHo led Thursday’s protests, they are not the only ones affected by UCPath errors. According to Lizzie Campbell, one of the head stewards of the UAW 2865 union at UC Davis, graduate students have had a variety of issues that have led many to take extra shifts at outside jobs — taking time away from their work at UC Davis, restricting access to healthcare and leading some to borrow money from friends and family.
Graduate students and undergraduate tutors are able to do more about the issues they face because they have a union, unlike undergraduate employees. Through the union, workers have a contract that is supposed to guarantee they get paid on time, as well as a process for filing grievances when such issues occur. The university has been more willing to work with their grievances in the past week, according to Hintze.
Hintze says he hopes the union can reach an agreement similar to the one that compensated workers last year. After seeing other campuses’ experiences with UCPath, he says the union’s aims to reach more people affected and educate them about their options has been successful.
In addition to their education campaign, UAW 2865 also sponsored Senate Bill 698, which would ensure UC workers are paid on time. The bill was signed by Governor Newsom in October, and will go into effect Jan. 1, 2020. UC Irvine and Santa Cruz are scheduled to join UCPath before then, in December. UC San Diego is currently scheduled to implement the system in May 2020.
When UCPath was initially announced, it was projected to be fully implemented at every campus by 2014. Issues with the system, however, have caused a significant delay in implementation.
Written by: Andrea Esquetini — firstname.lastname@example.org