A liberal university is now proving the conservative case against minimum wage law.
UC Berkeley says it can’t comply with a local ordinance that raises the minimum wage to $10 an hour because of “budget constraints.”
It’s funny, because that’s exactly what conservatives have been saying all along as a reason against government wage controls. While giant corporations can afford the wage increases, many small businesses can’t comply with such stringent government mandates and controls, such that they either have to find a way to pay their workers extra or be forced to shut down.
What’s infuriating in this particular case is that UC Berkeley has been “exempted” from the local minimum wage ordinance since it’s a state-run institution.
California’s minimum wage is $9 an hour for all workers, but on October 1 the city of Berkeley implemented a local ordinance raising it to $10, seeking to improve conditions for low-skill workers in a city with a high cost of living. However, the city cannot compel state government entities to pay the higher wage, and so UC-Berkeley, the city’s largest employer, has exploited its state affiliation to keep paying 25 percent of its student employees less than the city minimum, according to a report by Inside Higher Ed.
The school has defended itself, telling the local East Bay Express that “budget constraints” require that it keep student wages down. However, the UC system has recently given big pay boosts to some of its top executives, leading many to criticize its claims of a money shortage. For example, earlier this year, UC-Berkeley vice chancellor and provost Claude Steele received a pay increase of $75,000, raising his base salary from $375,000 to $450,000. That raise could have paid for a higher minimum wage for 220 student employees working 20 hours a week over a 17-week semester.
So, they’re paying their top executives extra, but “budget constraints” necessitate that they compensate many of their regular employees below minimum wage. They’re acting like all the corporations they claim to hate. It’s the same story. The higher-ranking executives get the big pay raises and the yachts while the people at the bottom of the totem pole get pennies on the dollar.
People can gripe and complain that that’s greedy of these executives, and they very well might be right. But if it bothers them that much, they should petition their bosses for higher pay. I’m not saying that’s guaranteed to get them a raise, but they certainly shouldn’t go crying to the government to get them to force businesses to pay more. That’s not the government’s business. As long as a business is paying according to what they and their employees agreed, the government has no place in mandating wages.