UC Berkeley Labor Center releases report on rise of contracted employees in state

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The UC Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education released a report Tuesday highlighting the negative implications of a significant increase in contracted employees throughout California’s custodial and security workforces.

The report — titled “Race to the Bottom” and compiled by Sara Hinkley, Annette Bernhardt and Sarah Thomason — identifies an approximately 100 percent increase in the number of contracted janitors and a 50 percent increase for contracted security workers in the state from 1980 to 2014.

According to Hinkley, their research began in October, although her team had long been interested in the outsourcing of labor. The report showed that contracted janitors earned 20 percent less than noncontracted janitors and that security officers earned 18 percent less from 2012 to 2014. Additionally, 53 percent of contracted janitors and 36 percent of security officers live in families that fall below 200 percent of the federal poverty level, the report found.

“When workers are contracted out, they lose ground,” Hinkley said. “They lose out on wages, (and) they lose out on benefits.”

Helen Chen, a contributor to the report, noted that janitors and security workers are also at high risk of sexual assault, as they often work alone at night. She added that the convoluted structure of contracted labor, paired with a lack of human resources, reduces the likelihood that workers will report sexual violence.

UC policy already prohibits hiring contract workers solely for the purpose of saving money, according to an email from UC spokesperson Kate Moser. Additionally, the university’s Fair Wage/Fair Work plan, announced in July, ensures that contracted employees working 20 hours or more a week are currently paid at least $13 an hour and at least $15 an hour by October 2017.

Antonio Ruiz, a part-time worker contracted by LAZ Parking, has been a parking attendant at UC Berkeley for 21 years but said he has consistently earned only the minimum wage, compared with the approximately $22 hourly wage of his campus-employed co-workers. He added that he receives no pension or healthcare benefits in his position.

“Right now, we are fighting to be UC employees,” Ruiz said.

Todd Stenhouse, spokesperson for the public services employee union American Federation of State, Municipal and County Employees Local 3299, said it was ironic that the UC Berkeley Labor Center released a report detailing a controversy so prevalent on campus. The AFSMCE is currently staging a speakers’ boycott on campus until the administration meets its demand for the insourcing of all campus contracted workers.

UC Berkeley spokesperson Janet Gilmore said in an email that the campus is committed to the Fair Wage/Fair Work plan and is working out an agreement with AFSCME to insource all contracted full-time custodians on campus.

John Penilla, campus junior and member of UC Berkeley’s Student Labor Committee, said that upholding a contracted workforce on campus stifles the power of workers and advocated collective resistance as a means of improving their living conditions.

“(The report) makes the case for using this type of analysis to make good policy choices about keeping workers from becoming dependent on public assistance, keeping workers from living on the very edge of poverty,” Hinkley said. “We’ll wait and see what happens.”

Contact Anna Dell’Amico at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @adellamico_dc.

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  • Becky Newsom

    This labor practice goes beyond service employees. There needs to be a full audit of UC’s part-time, contract, and outsourced labor. Speak to any UC employee (other than an administrator) and you’ll get an earful on UC’s adversarial labor practices.

    • lspanker

      What’s wrong with contracted labor?

      • Resident

        You evidently don’t read very well.

        • lspanker

          I read well enough to know that the UC system is in deep financial trouble. I also understand that the charter of the University of California states that it’s mission is education and research, not a full-employment program for those seeking union/government jobs.