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US university’s subcontracted campus jobs mean poverty wages

14 January 2016
Justice for UC workers!
Fifty students held a two-hour occupation of the central administration offices at the University of California, Berkeley on 3 December to demand living wages and benefits for workers employed by private contractors on campus. Police arrested 22 of the students who were charged with misdemeanor offenses.

The practice of outsourcing, mostly with workers from the Bay Area, is detrimental both to those workers and campus workers directly hired by the university, according to campaign advocates. AFSCME Local 3299, the system’s largest employee union, said in August that UC management currently holds contracts with “at least 45 private contractors employing thousands of subcontractors who perform the same work as career UC employees—such as custodians, security officers, parking attendants, and food service workers.” Researchers at UC Berkeley’s Labor Center have examined the problems of subcontracted labor at length in recent years, concluding that outsourcing arrangements drag wages down to levels that make subcontracted workers twice as likely to enroll in public assistance programs.

The public pressure built up over both the Fight for 15 and the campaign for SB 376 coincided with UC President Janet Napolitano’s directives for minimum wage increases that have brought the current wage to $13 as of this October, moving to $15 by 2017. A $13 minimum wage, however, puts subcontracted UC workers at the same level as the median wage for subcontracted workers across the state,  the UC Berkeley’s Labor Center calculates. Already in the expensive Bay Area, Berkeley contractors are a part of the nation’s working poor.

SB 376, a state bill celebrated by labor activists and meant to fix the problem by requiring equal pay for equal work between subcontractors and their UC equivalents, came across Governor Jerry Brown’s desk in early October. State Senator Ricardo Lara, a Democrat who introduced the legislation, wrote in a Sacramento Bee op-ed in June, “On poverty, and especially poverty created by private firms profiting from business with California’s public institutions—doing nothing is simply not an option.” (Governor Jerry Brown vetoed the bill, saying that he was “not prepared to embrace [its] provisions.”)

Student Labor Coalition members staged the sit-in at California Hall as a part of their campaign called “Justice 4 UC Workers,” saying in a statement before the occupation: “A broad coalition of students demands that their tuition dollars no longer fund racism and injustice at the UC. And they will continue to campaign with increasing intensity until UC Berkeley’s hiring practices adhere to the values embodied (and advertised) by an elite, progressive university.”

Read more (Source: Inthesetimes.com)

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