Campus insources workers after ongoing plans

Michael Tao/Staff

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After seven months of protests by campus employees and students, UC Berkeley finalized plans to insource 69 campus workers from three private contract companies last week.

The decision to insource workers was part of the Fair Wage/Fair Work Plan, a broader university movement aiming to support campus employees and raise their salaries, campus spokesperson Janet Gilmore said in an email. She added that campus officials have coordinated with AFSCME, a labor union representing UC workers, to work out appointment details since March.

The campus has offered employment to all formerly contracted night shift and athletic custodians, as well as campus parking attendants contracted through LAZ Parking, according to Gilmore. She also noted that workers from ABM and Performance First were also given priority employment with the university.

“This agreement shows the UC has the capacity to do the right thing and to pull people out of poverty, because a first-class university system doesn’t have second-class workers,” said Todd Stenhouse, the AFSCME Local 3299 spokesperson.

Campus officials will also discontinue contracting additional parking or custodial workers for the remainder of the existing service agreement, extending their efforts to remedy “grotesque injustice” endured by contracted workers on campus, according to Stenhouse.

Stenhouse noted that contracted campus employees work the same number of hours as their insourced counterparts but do not receive parallel university benefits, often work multiple jobs, rely on government aid such as food stamps and could be at greater risk for “abuses” such as wage theft.

According to City Councilmember Kriss Worthington, insourcing workers removes the need to question whether they were receiving fair treatment, adding that such investigations were “not a common problem … within the university system.”

Stenhouse, however, said that insourcing workers was a “win-win-win” because it proved to be more cost-effective than contracting workers, which requires paying overhead fees of approximately $138 million.

The Student Labor Committee, or SLC, and AFSCME have organized several rallies and protests over contracted workers’ rights since August. Contentions over workers’ rights peaked March 18, however, when the university ended a boycott held by campus protesters with the current agreement to insource workers, according to a campus press release.

Kristian Kim, an SLC member and campus junior who faced possible suspension after participating in a demonstration for workers’ rights March 2, said students have a “unique” responsibility to challenge “the unilateral impositions of administrative will” on campus workers’ behalf.

Worthington co-signed a letter with the Berkeley City Council appealing penalties against Kim to be dropped.  According to Kim, her suspension charges were waived Friday.

“Part of our objective here is to make sure … that the UC honors a really important aspect of its formation, which is that workers are treated with a standard of dignity and respect,” said Stenhouse.

Contact Kimberly Nielsen at [email protected].