Union calls for speaker’s boycott, urging improved treatment of subcontracted workers

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A UC labor union is calling for a speaker’s boycott at UC Berkeley for the duration of the spring semester, urging the campus to improve its treatment of subcontracted workers.

In a press release published Thursday, the labor union, AFSCME Local 3299, said it wants UC Berkeley to hire the nearly 100 subcontracted campus workers employed by Performance First, ABM and LAZ Parking as direct employees.

UC Berkeley employs some individuals directly, or in-house, while others who do temporary or seasonal work are often subcontracted and receive reduced pay and fewer benefits than directly employed workers.

Todd Stenhouse, a spokesperson for AFSCME Local 3299, said the work completed by subcontracted workers is neither seasonal nor temporary and often includes 80-hour work weeks and no overtime compensation.

“These contractors exploit workers, primarily immigrants and workers of color for profit,” Stenhouse said. “A first-class university should not treat its workers like second-class citizens.”

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees’ boycott has the potential to affect planned campus talks, such as those hosted by Cal Performances. It could also affect the Clinton Global Initiative University conference in April, at which Bill Clinton and Chelsea Clinton are scheduled to speak.

Stenhouse said Bill Clinton has honored speaker’s boycotts in the past — cancelling a talk at UCLA in 2008 and is hopeful he will do so again. According to an AFSCME press release, Hillary Clinton met with representatives of AFSCME Local 3299 in June to discuss the university’s subcontracting practices.

Moreover, Angela Davis, a political activist and author, has agreed to honor the speaker’s boycott, Stenhouse noted.

According to the AFSCME press release, many subcontracted workers seek direct employment at UC Berkeley for jobs in which they would do virtually the same work they perform as subcontracted workers. Their requests are often denied.

One of the campus’s contracting companies, Performance First Building Services, is currently under investigation by U.S. Department of Labor for allegedly underpaying its workers and withholding overtime pay.

According to the AFSCME press release, the union has contacted individuals scheduled to speak on campus this semester, as well as state and federal elected officials, asking them to honor the 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,” said AFSCME Local 3299 President Kathryn Lybarger in the press release.

AFSCME is currently focusing the boycott on UC Berkeley, but Stenhouse said the subcontracting issue is a systemic problem on many UC campuses.

Campus spokesperson Roqua Montez said UC Berkeley is “looking into the situation and working toward a resolution.”

Contact Maya Eliahou at [email protected].

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  • Breana Hartin

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  • Dan Spitzer

    This is a union completely disinterested in students’ quality of education at Cal and a union which is as narrow-minded as they come. Today, unemployment is the lowest seen in years. And if those whose job is in question don’t like the work, let them find other employment and not shortchange Cal students from hearing speakers which enhance their education. There are, I’m certain, other prospective workers who would consider taking these jobs. Those who don’t like the provisions of the work may go elsewhere.

    One lecturer who said she would not speak at Cal is the anti-Semtic and former card carrying member of the Communist Party, Angela Davis. If Davis chooses not to speak at Cal, those naive students who would miss her usual ideological rants would be the better off for not wasting their time on her…

    • fass52

      Standing up against zionist aggression and murder is not ant-semitic. Netanyahu nor anyone in his family are not ancestors of the indigenous people there, but are European Khazars who are murdering and stealing land just like your Ancestors did to the indigenous people’s of what you call America. Let’s get it straight. Netanyahu doesn’t even know how to light a Jewish candle, and in fact is an impostor. You should waste more time learning the truth instead of parroting the lies of zionists and impostors.

      • Dan Spitzer

        This is an anti-Semitic response of the worst order. Jews lived for thousands of years in the present day Israel along with what is now the W. Bank. Palestinian DNA shows them to originate in a sector of current Saudi Arabia.
        What are you trying to say when you moronically imply that Netanyahu “doesn’t know how to even light Jewish candle?” Of course he does–you bloody bigot. Netanyahu is a religious Jew. Not that it would matter if he wasn’t religious.
        And what’s this term “European Khazars?” This is not anti-Semitism?
        Zionists make up half the Jews on the planet and to use the term to denigrate them underscores just what a prejudiced, ignorant fool you are.
        As for stealing land from Native Americans, most Jews arrived in the US decades after the lands of Indians were usurped.
        Angela Davis was long a member of the Stalinist Communist Party. And she continues to parrot the hatred for Israel long expressed by the Russian CP and later by their American affiliates. Davis has about one more creative idea than “The Little Engine That Could” and students will hardly miss her ideological blather…

        • fass52

          In case you didn’t know Angela Davis draws standing room only crowds when she speaks the truth to students, and you’re mad about that just like Reagan was. She was not a member of the Stalinist party, but in fact a member of the USA communist party which has many members. Name calling does not make your misinformation any better, but in fact shows that you can not engage in intelligent debate and are uneducated. There is much written about Khazars and where they originated from. You don’t know about it, because you don’t read or study and just listen to what corporate owned media tells you… Another lost sheep… Baaaahhaaaaaah!

          • Dan Spitzer

            Again, the level of ignorance expressed time and again by anti-Semites will never cease to amaze. Yes, Davis draws crowds–there are plenty of sheep who don’t know any better. But virtually any member of CPUSA will tell you that they got all of their marching orders from the Soviet Union. Those who differed were unceremoniously drummed out of the Party.

            Well, the Party is over. Unfortunately its legacy, manifest in ideological haters such as Davis and the KPFA minion, keeps spewing their rhetorical sewage. For those who believe this rubbish, as they say: “Ignorance is bliss.”

            I once asked Angela, who claimed to be a feminist, if it bothered her that Black Panther leader Eldridge Cleaver called “the rape of white women a revolutionary act” in his book, Soul on Ice. The hypocrite quasi-feminist merely said, “No.”

  • CalAlum99

    “Students love workers?” Do students want higher tuition?