More than six weeks after a calling for a boycott on guest speakers at UC Berkeley, the university’s largest employee union, AFSCME 3299, and university have reached an agreement that will mean that 100 subcontracted custodians and parking attendants will be offered direct employment with the university within the next 30 days.
As a result, the speaker’s boycott has been lifted, and a planned April 1 picket at a planned Clinton Global Initiative University event on the Berkeley campus has been cancelled.
“This agreement is an important first step that also ends the exploitation of our colleagues at UC Berkeley, provides proven professionals to help the campus meet its permanent staffing needs, and reduces the drain on California’s taxpayer subsidized social safety net by pulling nearly a hundred families out of poverty,” said AFSCME 3299 President Kathryn Lybarger.
“We are deeply grateful to the many state and local elected officials, UC faculty, students, and civic leaders who stood up against our first class public university’s efforts to treat some of its workers as second class,” she said.
The agreement comes after more than a year of campaigning by workers employed by three different UC Berkeley contractors (Performance First, ABM, Laz Parking) facing widespread allegations of state and federal labor law violations, two recent State Labor Board complaints against the University of California over its use and treatment of subcontracted workers, and a recent study by the UC Berkeley Labor Center documenting the hardships faced by these types of workers across California.
The workers affected by the agreement already have more than 440 years of combined experience working at UC Berkeley, but because they’ve been employed by low wage contractors, have received only a fraction of the wages of directly employed UC Workers who do the same jobs.
Among those who honored the speaker’s boycott by cancelling or postponing planned engagements at UC Berkeley were Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom, State Senators Carol Liu and Loni Hancock, Assemblymember Tony Thurmond, National Domestic Workers Alliance Director Ai-Jen Poo, GLAAD President Sarah Kate Ellis, NO on H8 Campaign Founder Adam Bouska, and human rights activist Angela Davis. The Berkeley City Council and Associated Students of UC Berkeley also passed resolutions in support of the boycott.
In acknowledging the accord at UC Berkeley, Local 3299 President Kathryn Lybarger also highlighted the fact that exploitation of subcontracted workers by firms with checkered legal histories continues at other campuses across the UC system.
“With an agreement to end the boycott and provide direct employment to the dedicated subcontracted workers at Berkeley, the University of California has finally acknowledged that its use of low wage contractors had nothing to do with meeting ‘temporary or seasonal’ staffing needs,” Lybarger added. “That’s why we will continue to fight UC’s reliance on private contractors for its permanent staffing needs across the UC system. Nothing could be more at odds with the public mission of our state’s third largest employer than awarding multi-million dollar contracts to companies that profit from growing the ranks of California’s Medicaid-reliant working poor.”
Last year, a measure to guarantee equal pay for subcontracted workers (SB 376, Lara) doing the same jobs as directly employed UC workers passed the legislature, but was vetoed by Governor Brown after a fierce, UC led lobbying campaign against the measure.
Lara has reintroduced the bill during the current legislative session (SB 959), adding language that delays implementation until after UC has fully implemented its new system-wide minimum wage in 2018, as well as prohibitions against awarding contracts to companies with a history of labor law violations. SB 959 is supported both by AFSCME Local 3299 and the UC Student Association (UCSA).