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AFSCME 3299 & CLF Call on UC to Support Equal Pay for its Subcontractors

by via AFSCME 3299
San Francisco: As State and Federal lawmakers struggle to address the growing problems of poverty and income inequality, AFSCME 3299 President Kathryn Lybarger, California Labor Federation Secretary-Treasurer Art Pulaski and others today publicly called upon UC President Janet Napolitano to support SB 376 (Lara)—a measure that would guarantee that the employees of private firms providing contract services to the University are paid commensurate wages as career UC employees performing the same jobs.
“When it comes to issues of poverty, Californians expect their public institutions to lead by example in finding solutions—not actively contribute to the problem,” said California Labor Federation Secretary-Treasurer Art Pulaski. “By rewarding companies that deny their workers livable wages or benefits with multi-year contracts, UC is willfully growing the ranks of California’s working poor. SB 376 addresses this by requiring UC’s contractors to provide equal pay for equal work.”

Currently UC has at least 45 contracts in place, covering thousands of workers who perform jobs ranging from custodial, groundskeeping services to building maintenance and food service. According to research from UC’s own Labor Center at UC Berkeley, these workers are predominantly immigrants and people of color, and are paid as much as 53% less than career workers performing the same jobs.

One such worker is Irene Su, a recent immigrant from China, who worked as a Custodian at UCSF Medical Center for as little as $10.74/hour with no benefits. Employed by UC contractor Impec Group, she worked full-time alongside career UC workers with the same experience, doing the same job, and reporting to the same UC Supervisor dating back to 2012.

“We do the same job for half the pay and twice the uncertainty,” Su added. “Contractors like IMPEC are retained for years on end by UC, and will fire us for being sick, for speaking up for better working conditions, or for questioning hazardous work assignments. By turning a blind eye to this abuse, UC is literally condemning thousands of families like mine to a life of poverty and second class status.”

UCSF ended its contract with IMPEC Group in 2015, and Su lost her job. UC then brought in a new contractor—MGA—to provide the same services. MGA assigned employees continue to do the same work as career UC workers, for a fraction of the pay and no benefits.

With UC already retaining hundreds of new contractors for its new UCSF Mission Bay Hospital, and planning expansions in Richmond, Merced, Los Angeles, and San Diego in the coming years, AFSCME believes that SB 376 will ensure that UC contracting practices are not creating even more poverty for California—which has one of the highest poverty rates in the county—in the process. However, UC currently opposes SB 376.

“Raising the standards expected of private firms that provide contract services to public agencies like UC is the only way to combat the exploitation these practices make possible,” said AFSCME 3299 President Kathryn Lybarger. “In light of its own research, and the fact that UC President Janet Napolitano supported ‘living wage policies’ and contracting reform as Governor of Arizona and Secretary of Homeland Security, we are urging her to reconsider UC’s position. The problem hasn’t changed—the question is, has she changed?

Press Release: May 21, 2015

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