By Ivan Valenzuela
Speakers boycott seeks to persuade UC to hire subcontracted workers as direct employees
On Feb. 4, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 3299, the University of California’s largest employee union, called for a speaker’s boycott to bring in nearly 100 subcontracted custodians and parking attendants at UC Berkeley and to hire these workers as direct UC employees.
The protest, which the union hopes will last until the remainder of the spring semester or until the university decides to hire the subcontracted workers, calls for support of speakers who are set to appear at the university to boycott their appearances. Speakers scheduled to appear at UC Berkeley include civil rights activist Angela Davis, former President Bill Clinton and his daughter, Chelsea Clinton.
Kathryn Lybarger, the Local 3299 president, talked about the issues with the university using subcontractors to employ workers.
“UC Berkeley’s refusal to in-source its permanent force of subcontracted workers stands in direct conflict with everything it professes about justice, fairness and social mobility,” Lybarger said. “In asking our state and national leaders to honor this boycott, we are asking them to support the middle-class aspirations of nearly 100 workers that have endured years of exploitation and second class treatment at the public university they serve.”
Todd Stenhouse, a communications director for AFSCME, talked about the protest and what the university’s relationship with the workers means.
“This is literally Berkeley turning a blind eye to the exploitation of immigrants and people of color and it’s not OK,” Stenhouse said. “There’s a very simple way to make it stop. Bring these workers in, treat them with the dignity and respect that they deserve and honor their loyalty and their service.”
The workers represented by this boycott comprise mostly immigrants and people of color and are subcontracted by three companies: ABM, Performance First and Laz Parking. Each company has faced allegations of illegal conduct against their workers. Performance First and ABM have each faced accounts of wage theft, while ABM’s issues of sexual assault against its female employees were documented in the 2013 Frontline documentary, “Rape on the Night Shift.”
Janet Gilmore, a representative for UC Berkeley, noted in a statement from the university that the practice of subcontracting workers is permitted under the current contract with AFSCME.
“AFSCME fails to acknowledge that they have a negotiated agreement with the University of California through May 2017,” Gilmore wrote. “Under the terms of that agreement, the use of contract workers is expressly permitted for various purposes, including when they are needed for specialized expertise or when the jobs they fill are temporary in nature.”
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[Source]: The California Aggie