Students celebrate janitor’s rehiring

Feb. 12, 2010, 1:04 a.m.

Karina Reyes joined friends, Stanford Labor Action Coalition (SLAC) members and students Thursday afternoon at El Centro Chicano to celebrate her reemployment after being fired from her position as a campus janitor in January.

Students celebrate janitor's rehiring
Students and various community memebers joined Karina Reyes on Thursday in celebrating her rehiring. Reyes, a campus janitor, was briefly fired from her job in January after charging her cellphone on a University computer. (CRISTIANA GIANNINI/The Stanford Daily)

Reyes was initially suspended and then dismissed by the janitorial subcontractor ABM Industries, for whom she has worked for two years, after connecting her cellphone to a computer in a Terman Engineering Center office she was cleaning on Jan. 18. Newly installed video surveillance cameras captured her actions, and campus security officers arrived shortly afterward concerned about whether she was stealing data. Reyes said she was charging her phone.

Following her suspension, Reyes sought help from Adriana Campos ’11, the director of Habla la Noche, a student-worker English tutoring program in which Reyes participates. Campos put her in touch with SLAC, which took up the case.

SLAC members met with Reyes to develop a campaign plan involving other night-shift co-workers. Claudia Lopez ’13, Reyes’ tutor at Habla la Noche, and other students helped them translate Reyes’ story into English so that they could reach out to the larger community. Reyes and her friends handed out fliers in White Plaza informing people of what had happened and visited campus dorms and dining halls to gather support. They obtained 1,650 petition signatures, and on Feb. 4, Reyes was rehired.

An ABM spokesperson, citing Reyes’ case as a personnel matter, declined to comment.

At the Thursday celebration, Reyes, with the help of a translator, described her experience.

“At first, when I approached Adriana, I felt scared, alone and didn’t know what to do,” she said.

Reyes expressed happiness to be back at work and gratitude to everyone who was involved in her campaign. Supporters were inspired by the degree of solidarity they saw between workers and the student body, and Reyes said she plans to continue working among her co-workers to coordinate and organize their efforts.

Nayeli Gallardo ’13, who learned about the story through an e-mail from SLAC and signed the petition, was among many students present at the Thursday celebration.

“We need to recognize that the Stanford community is not just students and faculty,” Gallardo said. “There’re a lot of other people that make the University what it is.”

Although the University denies having made any request to have Reyes dismissed, SLAC member Dave Mitchell ’09 was critical of the janitorial subcontracting system Stanford uses to hire workers like Reyes through companies like ABM; he stressed the importance of workers’ initiative in this and similar projects.

“Every step of the way Karina was driving the agenda, and it was her campaign,” Mitchell said. “That was really important to us…she has been a remarkable advocate and an incredible resource for herself.”

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