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Citing Abuse of Contract Workers, AFSCME 3299 Calls for Speaker’s Boycott at UC Berkeley

President Bill Clinton, Other Invited UCB Speakers asked to Stand Up for Low Wage Contract Workers.

The University of California’s largest employee union—AFSCME Local 3299 today called for a “Speaker’s Boycott” at UC Berkeley for the duration of the spring semester, or until UC Berkeley commits to bring nearly 100 subcontracted campus custodians and parking attendants (employed by UC Contractors Performance First, ABM, and Laz Parking) in-house, and hires them as direct UC employees.

3299-hillary-clintonAmong the planned speakers who would be affected by the boycott are President Bill Clinton and Chelsea Clinton, who are currently scheduled to host a Clinton Global Initiative University event at UCB’s Blum Center for Developing Economies in early April.[i] Last Spring, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with representatives of Local 3299 and UC Berkeley contract workers (pictured above) and discussed the problem of contracting out at UC.

“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,” said Local 3299 President Kathryn Lybarger. “We are calling for a speaker’s boycott to right this terrible wrong. 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.”

UC Berkeley’s 100 subcontracted workers from ABM, Performance First, and Laz Parking have a combined 440 years of experience working at UC. They are neither temporary, nor seasonal. Most are immigrants and people of color, and they perform the same job duties as directly employed UC workers, but for a fraction of the pay and few (if any) benefits. Most have applied for UC jobs—doing the same work they currently perform as subcontractors–and been denied Instead, many must rely on Medicaid, pay-day lenders, and food stamps to support their families, while working full time at the nation’s most prestigious public university.

Their employers—UC Contractors ABM, Laz, and Performance First–have each faced allegations of illegal conduct against their workers:

  • Performance First: Currently under investigation by the US Department of Labor for a range of alleged violations against its UC-assigned workers, including wage theft and payroll fraud.[ii]
  • Laz Parking: UC-assigned Laz employees have filed more than $40,000 in wage and hour claims in the past year alone.[iii] The UCB contractor that preceded Laz went bankrupt, shorting workers thousands of dollars more.
  • ABM: According to the California Labor Commissioner’s office, ABM has faced more than 140 claims of wage theft in California since 2010.[iv] It has also faced allegations of sexual assault against female employees, highlighted in the recent PBS story, “Rape on the Night Shift.”

“I’m not asking for special treatment—just for the dignity and respect that my twenty plus years of service to the University of California demands,” said Laz Parking Attendant Antonio Ruiz. “For me, becoming a UC employee would mean I no longer need to work two jobs and worry about whether my employer will pay me for all the hours I’ve worked. Instead, it will mean one job, a living wage and the ability to spend time with my children.”

This morning, AFSCME Local 3299 sent correspondence to all known Berkeley speakers scheduled for this semester, as well as California’s state and federal elected officials to ask them to honor the boycott. It is also pursuing resolutions of solidarity amongst the local labor community, and will be organizing pickets throughout the spring—including at the Clinton Global Initiative University event planned for April.

Speaker’s boycotts at the University of California have a proud history. The last boycott, in 2006-2007, resulted in pay equity for UC custodians, lifting hundreds of full time UC workers out of poverty. President Bill Clinton was one of many state and national leaders who honored this boycott.[v]



3) Based on claims filed by UC-Assigned Laz Parking employees to the California Department of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) between June and December of 2015.

4) California Department of Industrial Relations 12/21/15 response to AFSCME Local 3299 Request for Information for adjudicated wage theft claims filed against custodial contractors in California between 2005 to 2015.