When parents send their children to a University of California campus, they expect the student to grow academically, to be well-fed and to live in a safe and clean environment.
When patients show up at a UC hospital, they trust that the facility will be adequately staffed.
And when California confronts a wildfire or a global pandemic, all of us rely on UC’s expertise and support to see us through it.
Now, a bill on Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk — awaiting signature or veto — threatens the university’s ability to provide these critical services to California students and patients.
When we were members of the state Legislature, we worked tirelessly to ensure that the University of California was equipped to serve Californians. We’re deeply concerned that Senate Bill 1364 will harm the very people UC is expected to help, and we call on the governor to protect Californians and veto the measure.
On its face, SB 1364 would limit contract workers at UC and enforce wage and benefit parity measures. In reality, the bill would create debilitating and redundant administrative, legal and punitive burdens for vendors working with UC — including small and diverse California businesses. Moreover, these restrictions would hinder the university from ensuring adequate staffing at its campuses and medical centers.
Specifically, the measure would require any UC vendor with a contract over just $1,000 to regularly disclose personal information about its employees — including full names, mobile phone numbers, email and home addresses, work locations and pay rates.
Penalties for businesses failing to comply would include fines, a five-year prohibition from working with UC and civil litigation. Vendors covered by the bill include those that provide temporary health care staff. The measure provides no exceptions for contracting in emergencies, or in cases requiring specialized equipment or expertise.
UC campuses and medical centers are large, complex institutions with staffing needs that cannot be met with UC employees alone. Like any major organization, the university occasionally contracts for services, typically to meet specialty, short-term or emergency needs. But SB 1364 would drive away vendors that supply essential services to its campuses and medical centers and, by extension, the public.
Importantly, UC has already taken significant steps to reduce contracting and protect workers. The UC Board of Regents approved a new policy in 2019 that generally prohibits contracting. The policy specifies that any contracted staff will receive equal pay and benefits, and it requires UC to report annually on its contracting practices.
With these protections in place, SB 1364 is unnecessary and creates a potentially dangerous situation for those the University of California serves, while undermining established UC policy. Signing legislation to override policy adopted by the regents and included in a collective bargaining agreement only discourages these agreements in the future.
A nationwide labor shortage and the pandemic have made it difficult for employers to hire and retain staff, particularly frontline employees. UC must be able to seek some outside staffing help when circumstances demand it. With the bill’s new requirements, the University will face even tougher hurdles in finding the workers it needs.
That’s a situation Californians can’t afford. When the next wildfire or pandemic hits, UC needs to be able to quickly bring in additional staff to treat patients. As campus enrollment grows, we also need sufficient staff to keep classrooms and labs clean and safe.
SB 1364 creates unnecessary bureaucracy and could directly harm our state’s college students and patients. Let’s not put the University of California in a situation where it is forced to turn away the very people it was created to help.
Kristin Olsen, R-Modesto, and Das Williams, D-Santa Barbara, are former members of the state Assembly. Together, they served, respectively, as vice chairwoman and chairman of the Assembly Higher Education Committee.