Showing posts with label public sector union. Show all posts
Showing posts with label public sector union. Show all posts

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Anger over University of Georgia pay policy is creating an opening for organized labor at UGA


Resentment over how the University of Georgia has handled changes to its overtime policy has created an opening for United Campus Workers, an affiliate of the Communications Workers of America, who are helping UGA employees angered by the recent changes that slashed their take-home paychecks in December.

Problems began when UGA reclassified 3,000 of its employees from exempt to nonexempt to comply with changes to the Fair Labor Standards Act, which was due to go into effect December 1.

Switching these employees from the university’s monthly payroll to a biweekly paycheck resulted in employees being paid for only half of month in November even though deductions such as health insurance premiums were taken for the full month leaving employees with very small paychecks prior to Christmas.

Employees have been quoted as complaining about struggling to cover their living expenses and needing to cash in vacation leave to make up for the shortfall. Many UGA staff have low salaries that make it difficult for them to save money for unexpected emergencies such as suddenly losing a half month’s pay.

While other Georgia public universities have needed to make similar classification changes, they have had a smoother transition. Georgia Tech has been repeatedly cited as an example on how the process should have been occurred.

The damage to morale at UGA, which was already low due to tight budgets, is creating an opportunity for a labor organizing effort.

Increasingly, labor unions are finding more success at organizing government workers than those in the private sector.

Nationally, public-sector workers have a union membership rate (35.2 percent) more than five times higher than that of private-sector workers (6.7 percent).

UCW-CWA has been focused on campuses in Tennessee, but according to the Athens, Ga., Flagpole, one of its organizers, Tom Smith, is helping the University of Georgia employees survey their fellow workers on their views towards the change where 3,000 UGA employees were switched from monthly to biweekly paychecks.

Not surprisingly, most of the comments in the survey were negative, and it is likely UCW-CWA will see this as an opening to begin an underground organizing effort at UGA.

Complicating the situation, the new FLSA rule has been put on hold by a federal judge in Texas, meaning it is unclear whether UGA needs to reclassify the 3,000 employees, which is adding to staff confusion and uncertainty.

No doubt, UGA President Jere Morehead hopes that staff unhappiness will fade in the new year, since most employees’ annual pay will remain unchanged, and they will receive three paychecks during two of the next twelve months.


While the pay policies will eventually sort themselves out, the bad feelings will remain and give UCW-CWA an opening to begin quietly organizing UGA staff under the radar.