Campus workers fear inability to vote on election day in light of campus email

Ethan Epstein/Senior Staff

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11/09/16 Update: This article has been updated to reflect additional information from campus spokesperson Janet Gilmore and real estate spokesperson Christine Shaff.

Information passed down from UC Berkeley Facilities Services’ custodial consultant and some campus workers’ managers and supervisors left many UC Berkeley employees confused about their ability to take two hours paid leave to vote in the general elections Tuesday in accordance with state law.

California Elections Code Section 14001 states that “If a voter does not have sufficient time outside of working hours to vote at a statewide election, the voter may, without loss of pay, take off enough working time … (to) enable the voter to vote.” Custodial Consultant Debra Harrington sent an email Monday to custodial supervisors and managers emphasizing that the paid leave only applies to workers who do not have enough time when not working to vote.

“In California, the polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.” Harrington said in the email. “Current custodial staff schedules are such that employees should have sufficient time outside of working hours to vote.”

John Lane, a campus custodial worker, alleged that directions from managers and supervisors made it unclear whether workers could be given time off for extenuating circumstances.

According to Lane, managers allegedly notified workers in his shift over their radios that, because they were scheduled to get off at 2:30 p.m., they had enough time to vote and would not be given time off. He said that workers who asked for time off were told that managers and supervisors “would get back to (them).”

“They just need to get back to us about validating that we get two hours to vote,” Lane said. “It’s … a bunch of white collar people making decisions like everybody gets off work and goes home. Most of the custodians have two jobs.”

Kandy Piper, a Residential and Student Service Programs worker at Albany Village, said this policy does not account for the schedules of many workers who hold another job, have long commutes, or have extenuating family circumstances that will prevent them from voting before or after their shifts.

Facility services worker Ivan Casanova said he used two hours of his vacation time to go to a polling station.

According to Christine Shaff, campus real estate spokesperson, an email was sent to all campus managers and supervisors in October about time off for voting. She added that posters with voting information were posted in Facilities Services offices as well as copies of specific union contract language about voting 10 days before the election.

Additionally, campus spokesperson Janet Gilmore said that after the confusion, UC worker union AFSCME 3299 compiled a list of names of employees who said they were being denied time off and subsequently provided it to Facilities Services when asked.

Custodial manager Ali Mansour said that none of his custodial workers had come to him with concerns about voting. He added that because the staff members he oversees are scheduled to work from either 6 a.m. to to 2:30 p.m. or 5 p.m. to 1:30 a.m., many employees have ample time outside of their shifts to go to polling stations.

“Nobody is denying them the right to vote,” Mansour said. “I had like four or five (staff members to day) and they know where I am and they can talk to me about anything.”

At around 2:45 p.m., Human Resources sent a Cal Messages memo to UC Berkeley managers and supervisors reminding them to give employees two hours paid leave to vote who do not have sufficient time outside of work to get to a polling station.

“Supervisors who have staff who were not able to get to their polling station this morning and need additional time for that this afternoon are asked to approve requests to leave early for that purpose,” said Jeannine Raymond, assistant vice chancellor for human resources, in the memo.

Facilities Services Director Sally McGarrahan forwarded Assistant Vice Chancellor Raymond’s Cal Message to Facilities Services managers at around 3:30 p.m.

Jessica Lynn is an assistant news editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @jessicailynn.

Because of misinformation from a source, a previous version of this article may have implied that Facilities Services required the union to provide a list of names of employees who wanted time off to vote. In fact, the union compiled the list of names and subsequently provided it to Facilities Services when asked.

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated the email was sent from UC Berkeley Human Resources. In fact, it was sent by the campus’s Facilities Services Custodial Consultant Debra Harrington.