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Liberal university refuses to pay increased minimum wages, claiming they are exempt


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(NaturalNews) One might expect universities run by liberals to champion minimum wage initiatives, but apparently that's not the case at two California public universities located in the Bay Area.

Both San Francisco State University and the University of California at Berkeley are paying student workers less than the minimum wage, claiming that they are exempt from having to do so.

In an effort to aid low-income students in the pricey Bay Area, voters have approved minimum wage increases, and at least two higher learning institutions in the area -- San Jose State University and City College of San Francisco -- are paying the higher wages.

The University of California at Berkeley, however, is still paying around 25 percent of its student workers less than the $10 per hour city minimum wage.

San Francisco State University pays nearly half of its student employees only $9 per hour (the state minimum wage) while the city's minimum wage is set at $10.74 per hour.

Because the universities are classified as state agencies, they are required by law to pay only the state minimum wage.

In Berkeley, councilman Jesse Arreguin expressed disappointment that UC Berkeley did not honor the city's minimum wage laws:

"We were hoping they would follow the letter and the spirit of the law."

Arreguin also noted that, while the university continues to pay the lowest wages possible, it also plans to raise tuition costs more than 25 percent over the next five years.

UC Berkeley officials recently announced that they are "exploring" the idea of raising the minimum wage. However, Arreguin says the city minimum wage is a "floor" and that "$10 an hour is not enough to support yourself in Berkeley or the Bay Area."

The exemption was the cause of an earlier controversy at San Jose State University. An initiative to raise the city minimum wage was successfully mounted by sociology students, but when the law passed, the university continued paying the old wage.

Under pressure, San Jose State University President Mohammad Humayon Qayoumi finally agreed to the wage increase, after having been told that a refusal to pay it would amount to bad press for the university. Qayoumi apparently had a change of heart after hearing complaints from students involved in the campaign.

Scott Myers-Lipton, the professor whose students began the ballot initiative, noted:

"I think the president agreed with the logic, but I think it was more because of the possible bad press that may have resulted."

Minimum wages vary depending on whether students work for the university entity itself or another campus employer. For instance, at San Jose State University, those employed by the affiliated University Corporation make at least the city minimum wage, and often well above it. Those employed by the university itself make only the required state minimum wage.

UC Berkeley students involved in the Federal Work-Study program are paid a minimum of $10 per hour by their off-campus employers. Guidelines for the program specify that participants must be paid the highest minimum wage in the city or area they work in.

It looks as if UC Berkeley may begin paying the city minimum wage next fall, but it remains to be seen if San Francisco State University will follow.

It would seem that, in the face of spiraling tuition costs, these universities should be doing all that they can to give working students a break -- especially when the campus factions are helping to create and pass the initiatives in the first place.

Looks like another case of liberal hypocrisy.



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