SLAC mobilizes against Stanford Hospital job cuts

March 3, 2013, 11:42 p.m.

Stanford Hospitals and Clinics (SHC)’s recent decision to implement job cuts and offload services to an external contractor has prompted allegations of negligence and worker abuse from community members, as well as a petition from the Stanford Labor Action Coalition (SLAC) protesting the moves.

MADELINE SIDES/The Stanford Daily
MADELINE SIDES/The Stanford Daily

According to the SLAC petition, SHC has recently laid off a dozen janitorial workers. In addition, 13 of the School of Medicine’s original 38 housekeeping assistants have been offered voluntary service packages and relieved, according to SLAC member Laurel Fish ’14. Some have since been rehired in part-time capacities.

Of the remaining 25, 16 have been granted only provisional employment until October 2013 and nine have been converted into “float workers” without any guarantee of permanent employment.

Meanwhile, according to the petition, six of nine janitors at the Clark Center, a research facility affiliated with SHC, were relieved of their positions in a process that began last November. The janitors were subsequently rehired by a subcontractor– UGL Unicco– to perform the same job for less money and fewer benefits.

The SLAC petition demands that current workers be guaranteed employment beyond October 2013, that float workers be guaranteed full-time regular jobs, that the pay and benefit levels or full-time status of Clark Center workers be restored and that the University hire all housekeeping assistants and managers directly, ceasing both existing and new contracts with any subcontractors.

According to Fish, the online petition resulted from a series of meetings with workers at the Stanford Hospital, the School of Medicine and the Clark Center. Fish said that SLAC members tried to reach out to the administration several times in November and December but that they were turned away, leading them to create the petition.

The University does not plan, however, to respond to the petition.

“This is a two-month-old issue,” said University spokeswoman Lisa Lapin. “Action has already happened, and I don’t think anything further is going to happen.

Lapin said that the University had hired a subcontractor to manage janitorial services at the Clark Center to avoid using hospital housekeeping staff in a different type of facility.

“When the Clark Center housekeepers were offered positions with UGL, every effort was to be made to make these positions at the top of the pay scale, with full house benefits and seniority vacation time,” Lapin said. “Stanford does have standards by which it asks its subcontractors to abide.”

Najja Kossally ’13, the SLAC member who started the petition, argued that subcontracting has become increasingly popular because it releases the University from responsibility to its workers.

“If the subcontractor is really terrible, Stanford can say, ‘Well, it’s not really our issue,’” he said.

Since the changes were implemented last year, both SLAC members and hospital workers have claimed that workloads have increased by unreasonable amounts. One worker at SHC, who– like all the workers interviewed for this article– asked that her name not be used to help protect her job security, said that she is now expected to clean 18 rooms in the same amount of time she used to clean nine, and that she often is not given free time for lunch.

Another worker at the Stanford School of Medicine described how he was injured as a result of increased workloads.

“When I came back, [the managers] would just throw more work at me,” he said. “This happens in big numbers, and I want to get the voice out for many of my co-workers.”

The worker also asserted that managers had subjected him and other workers to poor treatment, citing examples of verbal harassment– including being told by a manager that he was making too much money as well as receiving warnings from another that she would be “watching” him and his co-workers in the cameras. In addition, he said that the management has exacerbated workers’ unease with regards to being rehired in October when their contracts expire.

“Our future is very, very unstable,” he said. “There are always rumors about a new company coming in anytime and the management tells us we’re not going to rehire you.”

After he and some of his co-workers presented their concerns to Amir Dan Rubin, the hospital’s president, the worker reported being quizzed in small meetings about their experience at SHC and being offered recommendation letters to look for jobs elsewhere.

Another housekeeping assistant at the Stanford School of Medicine alleged a lack of respect by managers when he was denied his request for additional bereavement leave after his mother passed away.

“My manager asked for a death certificate,” he said. “It didn’t seem like he believed me.”

Lapin emphasized that the University cannot get involved with the workers’ grievances due to the existence of a workers’ union. However, one of the workers claimed that neither the HR department nor the union would address their concerns and often sided with the managers.

When asked about this concern, Lapin said that the union may be unable to address concerns at the moment because, until recently, it was embroiled in biennial elections.

“The University can’t get involved because [the issue is between] a contractor and the… union,” she said. “I couldn’t speak to any problems that they would have there.”

Kossally said that he hoped the petition would move students to demand that the University step in.

“The University will often claim that this is not your issue because the workers have unions [to help them],” he said. “No, this is your issue, and of course you should be involved.”

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