Berkeley Student Cooperative workers demand timely compensation

Photo of the Berkeley Student Cooperative
Nicole White/File
Berkeley Student Cooperative, or BSC, student workers have created a petition alleging that the organization has failed to compensate them in a timely manner in the fall semester. The petition, which has more than 240 signatures as of press time, seeks to raise awareness and educate workers on their rights.

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Student workers at the Berkeley Student Cooperative, or BSC, organized a petition claiming that the BSC has allegedly failed to compensate them since the start of the fall semester.

The petition, posted Tuesday by Olivia Kehoe, campus junior and produce manager at BSC, calls for timely compensation for student workers and back pay for alleged California Labor Code violations. Workers have allegedly been facing similar issues with untimely compensation for multiple semesters, according to the petition.

The BSC aims to offer low-cost housing to UC Berkeley students, according to its website. All residents of the co-op houses are required to work in the houses for five hours each week, but students can choose to work more hours and be compensated $18 an hour as part of a “paid work shift” option, according to Ariel Zarrin, central food and supplies, or CFS, operations leader at BSC.

“A lot of us feel trapped, and so it’s harder to kind of organize in that sense, because we rely upon them for food and housing,” Kehoe said.

The aim of the petition is to raise awareness and educate workers on their rights, Kehoe added.

Zarrin, who is in her third semester of working for CFS, alleged that she has been paid late in the past as well.

“Each time that they’ve failed to pay me, I’ve tried reaching out to our HR department, our executive director and our accounting office, and none of them have been able to give transparent answers as to when I’m getting paid, or why the payment is being delayed,” Zarrin said.

The petition cites the BSC employee handbook, which states that payrolls for employees are done on a biweekly basis.

However,  according to Kim Benson, BSC executive director, the employee handbook applies to professional employees who live off-site. “Student leaders,” on the other hand, receive rent stipends once a semester.

Benson said in an email that most BSC students have already received stipends, with the remainder of them expected to go out this week.

“We are committed to continuously working with our members to understand their needs and ways in which we can improve education and streamline our processes,” Benson said in the email.

Zarrin hopes that through this petition, she and her fellow workers will receive more timely compensation and back pay for the instances when payments were allegedly delayed.

The petition has more than 240 signatures as of press time.

“A lot of us are low income, people of color, first generation, and these kinds of issues really undermine the integrity of those values and our organization,” Zarrin said. “This is not a good look for our organization, and I just, I want everyone here to be treated fairly, especially in a time like this.”

Contact Emma Rooholfada at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @erooholfada_dc.