I Haven't Been Paid for My Work in Three Years. What's Up With That?

I Haven't Been Paid for My Work in Three Years. What's Up With That?

It was a simpler time three years ago. On March 3rd, 2020, students submitted their assignments they wrote up on sheets of paper to physical drop boxes, the most interesting thing that happened on campus in the past two weeks was a party put on by the undergrad house we now know as Venerable, and the article with title “Coronavirus Cases Pop Up Across U.S. Over Weekend” wasn’t a big enough deal to be the first thing you see as you picked up the day’s issue of The California Tech.

Looking back now, it seems like so long ago, because it was! On this day three years ago, three quarters of our current undergrad population was still in high school! Hopefully, this puts into perspective how long it’s been since I’ve been promised a wage I still haven’t received.

The March 3rd, 2020 issue was the first one I worked on for the Tech, and at that time, the pay rates were made very clear to us by the business manager. As a page editor, I would be paid $30 for my work on the issue. The long hours I worked the night I helped prepare the publication put my effective hourly rate well below minimum wage, but since our publication is funded entirely by the dues each undergraduate pays to our student council, ASCIT, I was glad I was being paid at all.

Of course, this would be the last issue we would publish from on campus. I wasn’t paid immediately, but at the time, losing out on $30 wasn’t my primary concern. Most of us working on the Tech shared this outlook, so as I got sporadic updates on the earnings I had accrued and wasn’t paid out over the next year, I assumed that things would work themselves out once we got back on campus.

When we returned to campus at the start of the 2021-2022 academic year, I asked our business manager at the time about the status of payments for our contributors over the past two years. I was told that neither he nor the treasurer of ASCIT, our parent company, even had access to the bank account that would be used to pay the Tech’s contributors.

We later organized a meeting with the administrators responsible for payment distribution. By this point, all the financial records for payment had long since been submitted to them, we were told by the administrators that Caltech’s bureaucracy is set up to pay for million dollar microscopes, not twenty dollar article payments, and that the process would require more time. There were additional legal complications due to the payments being linked to work that had occurred in a previous tax year. They said they would get things resolved within four to six weeks.

Well, it’s been nine months since they said that. In that time, we occasionally heard rumblings of progress - during the summer of 2022, contributors were asked for tax information. We were also asked if we were okay with receiving our backlogged payments and all future payments in the form of… gift cards. But as you may have guessed by the fact that I’m writing this article, neither of these things have led to any of us getting paid our promised wages. As of this week, the payment procurement forms were resent, though whether or not this will lead to any of us actually getting paid is yet to be seen. Let’s hope it does…