ACA 14: It’s a Prohibition, Not Just a Restriction!

There is a misconception about ACA 14…that it’s just a restriction on contracting out for the UC system. It’s not. It’s much worse.  ACA 14 is a complete prohibition on contracting out for support services with the University of California. If this measure is passed by the Legislature this week and later approved by California voters, all UC support service contracts would be prohibited by this constitutional amendment. The only way the UC would ever be able to contract for support services in the future is if a subsequent bill was passed by the Legislature allowing the UC to contract, and even then, those contracts would only be allowed under extremely limited circumstances.

ACA 14 also targets more than just UC campuses.  It impacts UC hospitals and medical centers and it will impact all of us because at some point in a Californian’s life, they will likely be a student, a patient or a loved one of a student or patient whose life or future has been or will be effected by the UC. Some of the most traumatic cases and sickest patients are taken to UC Davis Medical Center for emergency treatment or medical care because UCD Med Center is the only level 1 Trauma center in Sacramento up to the Oregon border. This measure is not just an attack on those facilities, but also all those who indirectly benefit from the UC, including businesses who are depending on the UC campuses to graduate skilled workers. We can’t expect the UC to increase enrollment to serve more students and meet the state’s future workforce needs and then completely take away the UC’s ability to operate efficiently and contract out when necessary.

Whether it’s the UC campuses or medical centers, the ability to contract out for supportive services when necessary is critical to the proper functioning of the UC. Support Services under ACA 14 includes but is not limited it to: “cleaning or custodial services; food services; groundskeeping; building maintenance; transportation; security services; billing and coding services; sterile processing; hospital or nursing assistant services; and medical imaging or respiratory therapy technician services” and includes other “patient care service”.  In the UC medical setting, within seconds, a hospital that may have been properly staffed for a usual Tuesday afternoon, could be inundated with patients. The UC’s ability to obtain staff on short notice is essential to the safety and well-being of UC patients. In a hospital setting, the cleaning staff, who clean and sanitize the rooms between patients, are as critical to patient care as the medical imagining or respiratory therapy technician. Without the clean room, the patient will never be seen by those individuals who are providing the direct patient care.

In the campus setting, there are services that are not needed throughout the year such as security for commencement ceremonies or dormitory cleaning at the end of the school year.  It would not be fiscally prudent to hire employees on a full time basis for needs that may last at best a month. Additionally, there are services such a large tree trimming or window washing that may or may not be needed seasonally but may require large machinery and insurance that the UC does not have and would be very expensive for the UC to obtain and maintain.

The University of California has already incrementally increased its minimum wage for both employees and contract workers and has pledged to better oversee contracts generally.  The UC “Fair Wage/Fair Work” Plan, which went into effect October 1, 2015 requires 1) increased minimum wages for all UC workers, 2) annual audits of service contracts to ensure appropriate wages and working conditions are being met, and 3) a dedicated hot-line to report worker complaints. Thus, the concerns that this constitutional amendment, is trying to address, were proactively addressed by the UC in their “Fair Wage/Fair Work” Plan. The UC minimum wage rose to $15 per hour in October 2017 and the audits and hotline continue to provide protection for employees and service contract workers.

The UC has already indicated that ACA 14 will increase its operating costs by over $172 million annually. At a time when California is trying to address the skills gap by graduating more students with bachelor’s degrees and health care costs are already high, layering on this additional cost to the UC system is not the best use of California’s taxpayer dollars.

Karen Sarkissian, Policy Advocate