By Doug Porter
Today (Oct 1), some contract employees working on University of California facilities will be seeing a pay hike to $13 an hour. The university system is California’s third largest employer and the largest employer in San Diego.
Earlier this year UC President Janet Napolitano announced a plan to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour over a three-year roll-out for all workers, including contract ones, and today’s bump is just the first stage.
Or maybe they won’t be seeing that raise. The Los Angeles Times reports the Department of Labor has launched an investigation into long-time contractor Performance First Building Services failure to pay overtime to workers cleaning up after sporting events at UC Berkeley.
The paper’s investigation shows that employees were regularly required to work 80 or 90 hour work weeks and issued separate checks to avoid the time-and-a-half required by law. And people wonder why unions are a good idea.
The UC system has been under increasing scrutiny from lawmakers looking into the working conditions of thousands of contracted employees working in cleaning, security and landscaping jobs.
SB 376- Will Gov. Brown Approve?
The legislature has passed SB 376, requiring UC to pay contracted workers the same wages and benefits as existing university employees doing similar work. The bill has not yet been signed by Gov. Jerry Brown.
From the Santa Barbara Independent:
AFSCME (American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees) Local 3299 has been a strong supporter of the bill, arguing by denying their workers livable wages or benefits, UC is growing the state’s working poor. According to AFSCME Local 3299 — the UC’s largest labor union — UC has 45 such contracts in place, outsourcing work to thousands.
According to analysis of the bill, a UC Berkeley Labor Center study found temporary workers in 2010 were slightly younger, more likely to be women, less likely to be white, and less likely to have a high school diploma than the average non-temporary worker. The union argues these employees do the same job for less pay and more uncertainty. Contingent worker Irene Su, who worked at the medical center in UCSF, said in a press release contractors retained for years by UC will fire employees for being sick, speaking out against working conditions, and questioning hazardous work assignments.
But the UC Office of the President argues the legislation unfairly targets the UC system, and does not place the same requirements on the California Community College or the California State University systems. UC further argues its contract with the labor union already prohibits them from outsourcing services solely if the savings would result from paying contractors less wages and benefits for services typically done by university employees. If signed, UC argues, the bill would essentially end contract work — and the flexibility it provides for short-term projects — and cost the university system at least $36 million.
The Los Angeles Times story profiled several workers for the contractors at UC Berkeley:
Juliana Robles worked at Performance First from 2008 until she was fired in July, cleaning the California Memorial Stadium at UC Berkeley. During football season, she said, she worked seven days a week, often putting in 16-hour days from Thursday through Saturday to prepare for and clean up after Golden Bears games.
She said she never received more than $10 an hour, though California law requires that employees be paid at least 1.5 times their regular pay after exceeding eight hours in a day or 40 hours in a week. Robles said Performance First evaded the rules by issuing her checks under two names — one for her and one for her boyfriend, who hadn’t worked at the company for years.
Robles provided the two pay stubs to The Times and to investigators at the Labor Department, who contacted her last month. A Labor Department spokesman, Jose Carnevali, confirmed the open investigation but declined to comment further.
“The majority of people were being paid under two names,” Robles said. “I thought about reporting it. But at the same time I didn’t want to, because I was scared.”
Robles eventually approached unionized full-time Berkeley janitors and began talking with co-workers about working conditions. She was fired when the company learned of her activities.
According to the Times, “She’s been unable to find steady work since, and her family was evicted from its East Oakland apartment in August.”
So the questions beg to be asked: Was the UC Berkeley contractor an outlier? Are there other employers out there collecting $20 an hour for employees who get paid half that amount?
I suspect we’re going to be hearing a lot more about this real soon.
Planned Parenthood Office Burned, Arson Suspected
Arson investigators are probing the cause of a Wednesday night fire at the Thousand Oaks office of Planned Parenthood. Nobody was hurt in the blaze.
From the Associated Press via the San Francisco Chronicle:
County Fire Capt. Mike Lindbery says crews arrived to find the building’s sprinklers had extinguished most of the flames.
Investigators consider the blaze suspicious in nature. Lindbery says one of the building’s windows was smashed in.
Officials say there was likely more damage from the sprinklers than from the fire itself.
California Teachers Win First Amendment Case
Students First, the education lobbying group founded by public school reform advocate Michelle Rhee with seed money from the Eli and Edyth Broad Foundation, has lost a federal lawsuit, Bain v. California Teachers Association, targeting public union fair share fees.
With the Supreme Court willing to entertain major union challenges like Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association (over the constitutionality of fair share fees), we’ve seen a lot of creative lawsuits challenging union power. One of those lawsuits was Bain , in which a group of teachers filed suit against the union because they didn’t want to contribute to its political activity.
There’s already a work-around for teachers opposed to union politics: they can opt out of union membership and pay a “fair share” fee to cover the costs of collective bargaining. But the teacher-plaintiffs in Bain didn’t want to do that. By giving up their union membership they would have lost valuable benefits like liability insurance. The teachers wanted to remain members and still receive those benefits, while still opting out of the union’s political activity. So they sued, alleging the union put them “in an untenable position – they must either financially support political speech against their wishes or lose important employment-related benefits. Punishing the exercise of First Amendment rights in this manner violates the U.S. Constitution.”
Labor advocates did not agree, saying, in the words of In These Times’ Moshe Marvit, that the case represented “the high-water mark of perverting the First Amendment as a tool against labor.” The case will almost certainly be appealed.
Civic San Diego’s Last Ditch Effort
Joshua Emerson Smith at City Beat broke the news yesterday about last ditch efforts by downtown business interests to urge Gov. Jerry Brown to veto a bill allowing large scale projects approved by Civic San Diego to be appealed to the City Council.
Arguing the proposed appeals process could stifle real estate investment, the Downtown San Diego Partnership and the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce have, over the last five months, spent tens of thousands of dollars lobbying against the bill.
While previous efforts have fallen short, the Downtown San Diego Partnership has refused to give up. It hired the Crane Group in September, according to a disclosure report. The president of the Washington, D.C.-based lobbying firm, Lucie Gikovich, is widely known as Brown’s close friend, having served as his confidential secretary during his first terms as governor, as well as a staff member during his time as mayor of Oakland.
Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez introduced AB 504, following the failure of Civic San Diego to respond to criticisms of its processes and to create a meaningful community-benefits policy outlining specific project requirements. Despite public pronouncements to the contrary, the land use non-profit has a well-documented history of being tone deaf when it comes to public input.
The City Beat story quotes Dale Bankhead, political and legislative director for the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council:
“It’s pretty simple, local hire, quality jobs, public accountability—these are things that ought to be a no-brainer with respect to publicly funded projects, but really we’ve just been stonewalled at every step,”
Anti-Vaxers Fall Short, Claim Conspiracy
Opponents of SB 277, the law requiring vaccination for children to attend public school, have turned in only 228,000 of the needed signatures of 365,880 registered voters to get the measure before the voters in 2016, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Over at Natural News, a website supportive of anti vaccination groups, an article was posted suggesting strongly that there was a conspiracy afoot, possibly including referendum managers Donnelly and Lauren Stephens.
The missing signatures have led some volunteers to claim that the referendum was sabotaged, and likely from within, prompting organizers to file a request for an investigation to the California Secretary of State.
The large discrepancies in signature counts is generating panic among volunteers, causing some to point fingers at referendum leaders, with some volunteers alleging that they dropped off many more signatures with Stephens than she turned in to the validation companies.
Atkins: Stacking the Deck?
Some activists are claiming that supporters of Toni Atkins senate campaign are stacking the deck, hoping to block any endorsements of incumbent Marty Block by local Democratic clubs.
An email, purportedly from Uptown Democratic Club Treasurer Darlene Jacobs, being circulated says they’ve received a check from Atkins associate Laura Fink for $500 to cover the costs of signing up 25 new members.
Local clubs are the backbone of the Democratic Party in San Diego, and they directly influence the actions of the county-wide organization. One party leader I talked with told me she believes many clubs are seeing an enrollment influx.
I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, this could be construed as cheap way to derail the endorsement process in Atkins’ favor. On the other hand, if those 25 new members actually showed up and got active with the clubs, this would be great news. I saw the turnout via a picture on twitter for the first meeting of the UCSD College Democratic Club. (Of which I know nothing about any sudden new surge of members.)
If I was Republican, I would be very afraid.
On This Day:1946 – The International War Crimes Tribunal in Nuremberg sentenced 12 Nazi officials to death. Seven others were sentenced to prison terms and 3 were acquitted. 1977 – Elton John became the first rock & roller to be honored in New York City’s Madison Square Garden Hall of Fame. 1994 – The National Hockey League team owners began a lockout of the players that lasted 103 days.
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John Lawrence says
“UC further argues its contract with the labor union already prohibits them from outsourcing services solely if the savings would result from paying contractors less wages and benefits for services typically done by university employees. If signed, UC argues, the bill would essentially end contract work — and the flexibility it provides for short-term projects — and cost the university system at least $36 million.” The additional cost ($36 million) no doubt would be because the university charges more for overhead than does the contractor since contractors have to pay the same for wages and services as university employees get. Or does the wording imply that the contractor’s wages and benefits (not his employees) have to be the same or greater than university employees?
tom 2 says
I actually _do_ doubt that the $36M is overhead.
I have a different interpretation of the mesh of laws. My understanding is that the union contract only prevents UC from taking something currently performed by UC employees and outsourcing it if the _only_ savings (“solely”) are lower wages. As long as there are other additional savings, no matter how small, outsourcing with large savings on wages are still allowed. SB-376 would eliminate those savings from wages & benefits below the UC minimum, so outsourcing to contractors would only save UC money if those other savings claimed in the justifications were real, and would only save that amount.
Also, without the new law, I believe that new work (e.g., short-term projects) can be performed with contractors who pay less that the UC minimum. I don’t understand why contractors on short-term projects can’t simply pay the UC minimum to their workers on that project, unless their only price advantage is lower wages. Back in the 70s I worked road construction for a small firm. Under the contracts it had to pay union / prevailing wages, but it was small enough (~10 employees) that the workers didn’t have to be union members.
Whether UC (and CSU & CC) should pay living wages even though that costs more is a fair question. I am in favor of it; but there are good reasons to be opposed to it, too. When I was faculty (not at UC), I fought to pay my undergraduate techs more than $8/hr from my research contracts & grants. They were educated, doing skilled work, and in some cases their wages were their financial aid: workstudy where $6/hr or 80% came from workstudy and I only paid the rest. Other faculty were upset because they wanted to pay techs as little as possible to make their grants go as far as possible, and justified that because students were getting training. [In fairness to them, my contracts (fixed payment for deliverables) needed more careful & skilled work, but fewer pairs of hands, than my colleagues labs (grants reimbursing actual expenses plus overhead up to the gran amount).]
tom 2 says
Richard Riehl says
I wonder if the anti-vaxers are also the climate-change deniers. “Some volunteers alleging that they dropped off many more signatures with Stephens than she turned in to the validation companies” sounds a little like the logic of, “it doesn’t feel that warm to me.”