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Update: Growing Number of Leaders Join Berkeley Boycott Campaign to Urge Insourcing of UC contract workers
Oakland: The California Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) has issued its second Unfair Labor Practice Complaint against the University of California this year, alleging multiple violations of the Higher Education Employer-Employee Relations Act over its use and treatment of subcontracted workers.
In January, PERB issued its first Complaint, alleging UC engaged in unlawful retaliation against employees of UCSF Contractor IMPEC Group, which provided custodial services at UCSF from 2011 to 2015. Most of the more than twenty impacted workers, mostly Chinese immigrants, had been working at UCSF on a full time basis for years. At UCSF’s request, IMPEC Group slashed the workers’ wages by nearly 50%, prompting them to organize and seek direct employment with the University. UCSF responded by having the workers blacklisted when their employment was transitioned to a new contractor tasked with delivering the same services at UCSF, and then made sure that almost a dozen of them were fired.
PERB issued a second Complaint this week, alleging that UC violated its collective bargaining agreement with AFSCME Local 3299 by entering into at least five distinct contracts at multiple campuses private firms that pay their workers rock bottom wages for full time permanent staffing needs that are traditionally met by directly employed UC workers.
Two of the contractors named in the second PERB complaint—Performance First Building Services and ABM Services Inc.—are already facing mounting legal scrutiny. The LA Times reported last year that Performance First is under federal investigation by the Department of Labor for allegations of wage theft and payroll fraud involving its UC-assigned custodial workers.[i] The State Labor Commissioners Office has adjudicated 140 claims of wage theft against ABM since 2010[ii], and the company is facing multiple allegations of sexual assault against female employees, highlighted in the recent PBS documentary, “Rape on the Night Shift.”[iii] ABM and Performance First workers are also overwhelmingly immigrants and people of color.
The University of California’s largest employee union, AFSCME Local 3299, filed the charges that resulted in both Complaints. Local 3299 represents UC custodial workers, parking attendants, landscapers and other job classifications that are frequently contracted out to low wage firms.
“In issuing these Complaints, PERB has acknowledged that the University of California is engaged in an illegal, system-wide race to the bottom to meet its full-time, permanent staffing needs,” said Local 3299 President Kathryn Lybarger. “In doing so, UC is helping some of our state’s most notorious employers profit by condemning hundreds—if not thousands—of full-time UC workers and their families to a life of poverty and exploitation. This illegal conduct would be unacceptable in any circumstance, but it is especially troubling to see it happening at California’s third largest employer and the pre-eminent public university system in America.”
UPDATE: Speaker’s Boycott in Support of Subcontracted Workers Gaining Steam at UC Berkeley:
In support of the aspirations for better wages and conditions for nearly 100 subcontracted workers employed by ABM, Performance First and Laz Parking at UC Berkeley, Local 3299 recently launched a spring-semester speaker’s boycott at the campus until each of these workers is brought in-house.[iv]
In doing so, Local 3299 reached out to state and federal lawmakers, as well as other civic leaders (including President Bill Clinton and Chelsea Clinton, who are scheduled to host an event at UC Berkeley on April 1st-3rd[v]) with scheduled speaking engagements at Berkeley to ask them to honor the boycott. Among those who have already done so by cancelling/postponing existing events or committing to refuse any speaking invitations until the ongoing labor dispute is settled are:
“We are deeply grateful to the many leaders here in California and across the country who are standing up for the aspirations of UC’s permanent subcontracted workforce,” Lybarger added. “No one who works full time should be treated as second class, or forced to live in abject poverty. And we renew our call to all scheduled Berkeley speakers, as well as leaders and lawmakers everywhere, to join us in the fight against UC’s lawless exploitation of mostly immigrant workers by honoring the Berkeley Boycott.”
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