Public Comment

UC Berkeley is a Private University!

Harry Brill
Friday October 24, 2014 - 10:45:00 AM

One of the serious shortcomings of the recently enacted Berkeley Minimum Wage Law, which became effective October 1, is the permanent exemption for the University of California Berkeley campus. By 2016, the minimum wage will reach $12.53 per hour. But not for many employees of UC Berkeley. Because the University is presumably a public institution sustained by the state, its workforce is not covered by local laws. However, the reality is that although the State of California had once been its primary source of funding, this is no longer the case. 

In fact, UC Berkeley is has been transformed from a public to a private university. 

Nicholas B. Dirks, who is the chancellor of UC Berkeley just sent out a fund raising letter complaining that the University receives only about 12 percent of its budget from the State. So the chancellor now claims that using a budget criteria is no longer appropriate for considering the institution a public university. Rather, he points out, we all have a collective stake in the institution which is what makes it public.  

I would like to believe that the Chancellor recognizes that the University's employees are among the constituencies with an important stake in the University. Since this is, indeed, the case, the University's administrators should make sure that its entire work force is provided with good working conditions and adequate wages. 

I don't know to what extent its workforce would benefit if the Berkeley minimum wage ordinance applies to the University. What I do know is that since its funding base no longer depends on the State, and that it has become a private university, Berkeley's minimum wage ordinance should apply to all University employees.