Workers, students call for insourcing of all subcontracted workers on campus

Michael Wan/Staff

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Several dozen students, workers and community members marched to various locations on campus and in the city Monday, delivering petitions calling for the insourcing of all subcontracted employees at UC Berkeley.

The action was the result of organization among employees of ABM, Performance First Building Services and LAZ Parking — three companies that contract with the campus.

The workers said that as subcontracted employees, they receive significantly less pay than UC workers performing equivalent work — a problem they hoped would be solved by being brought in as UC employees.

In addition to subcontracted employees, those marching included members of the Student Labor Committee and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the union representing UC employees. They set out about 4:30 p.m. to distribute copies of the petitions, beginning at Labor Relations at UC Berkeley in University Hall, where Debra Harrington, the labor relations director, agreed to listen to workers’ testimonies.

Harrington responded saying that she could not immediately commit to meeting their demands but that she was committed to raising their concerns.

The group then went to the offices of UC Berkeley Parking and Transportation and Athletic Department administrators, in addition to seeking out Ali Mansour, who manages campus custodial workers. Their last stop was near International House, where a First Performance manager drove out to speak with them.

Throughout, several subcontracted employees shared stories of working excessive hours for low wages. Antonio Ruiz, an LAZ Parking employee, said he has spent 21 years working for contractors at the university and has had little time each day to day to spend with his children. Ruiz said that with the wage a UC employee would make for performing his current job, he anticipated being able to work “eight hours a day, not like a slave or a machine.”

“Everybody who comes to UC comes with dreams and aspirations,” said AFSCME spokesperson Todd Stenhouse. “Among them are basic dignity and a chance for a better life for their family.”

The campus has emphasized that there is no centralized way of deciding whether to contract work, as it does so based on various specific needs.

The AFSCME contract with the university also restricts contracting out. Contract work, for example, can be used to meet the need for a specialized skill not available internally or for financial necessity, but not for the sole purpose of saving money by paying lower rates and benefits than would have to be paid to UC employees.

Subcontracted employees who seek a career position usually do so by applying to open UC positions, according to campus spokesperson Janet Gilmore.

Stenhouse said efforts similar to the Monday action have occurred at UC Irvine, where, in 2011, campus officials agreed to hire a number of subcontracted employees as full-time UC employees.

Contact Melissa Wen at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @melissalwen.