Following sustained activism from students, faculty, staff and alumni, Stanford is committing to pay continuation for all regular Stanford employees through June 15, the end of spring quarter, Provost Persis Drell announced on Tuesday afternoon.
Additionally, Stanford will work with contract firms — including the custodial service contractor UG2, the food service contractor Bon Appetit and Student Organized Services (SOS), which employs kitchen staff working on the Row — “so that, with Stanford resources and the resources offered by the government, these firms will be supported in maintaining income and benefits for these employees through June 15,” Drell wrote.
The University is also creating a grant program to support Stanford employees experiencing financial hardship as a result of coronavirus, including temporary and contingent employees not covered by the University’s commitment to pay continuation, and reaching out to vendors on campus to discuss aid based on their individual situation.
This decision was made after two weeks of deliberation by University leaders, who have “been listening closely to the comments and suggestions” of the Stanford community.
That activism — spearheaded by Stanford Students for Workers’ Rights (SWR) — has included a petition that garnered 5,401 signatures from Stanford students, alumni and faculty; GoFundMe campaigns that raised over $200,000; multiple Daily op-eds; and a social media campaign that drew the attention of alumni including former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro ’96 and his brother Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX) ’96. 604 faculty also signed a statement of support for laid-off contracted workers.
Service Employees International Union (SEIU) California 1st Vice President Denise Solis held tele-town halls for workers to share their stories with prominent politicians such as California State Assembly member Lorena Gonzalez ’93.
“I want to appreciate the students and alumni for supporting workers in this fight,” Solis said. “Janitors were vulnerable enough to come forward and publicly share their story, and we want to make sure Stanford’s commitment translates to workers.”
Student activism has centered on the situations of regular and especially contracted employees, the latter of whom were excluded from Stanford’s March 16 announcement that it would guarantee pay continuation for regular employees. Residential Education initially suspended the SOS contract — which affects 56 chefs and hashers working on the Row — in March, promising two weeks of compensation and benefits for SOS employees “as a gesture of gratitude and goodwill.” Over 130 UG2 employees were slated to be laid off by the end of April.
Last week, as activists called for pay continuation through the end of spring quarter, Stanford agreed to extend pay for all SEIU-represented direct hires through April 30, and for the 56 furloughed kitchen staff through May 3.
On Tuesday, the University finally agreed to extend its support for both regular and contracted employees through the end of spring quarter.
Workers’ representatives argue that Stanford could have made this decision earlier.
“I think they could have done this in the beginning,” said SEIU Local 2007 president José Escañuela. “Stanford has always had a hands-off approach when it comes to contracted workers. But ultimately, they pay the bill for the workers. We are all one community.”
Ethan Chua, a member of SWR, says that while the extension of pay continuation is a victory, Drell’s email is ambiguous about the support Stanford would actually give to contracted workers. Since March 7, SWR has reached out to Stanford’s administration to discuss ways to protect workers, but has received no response, Chua said.
“Contracted workers are being treated unequally with respect to the way pay continuance is being rolled out,” Chua said. “Stanford does not really outline any clear action items for them, other than federal government support.”
In response to questions about the specifics of the Stanford’s plan, University spokesperson E.J. Miranda told The Daily that Drell’s message “contains the most current available information.”
The University’s announcement also addresses two subsets of workers who have received less attention over the past month: temporary and contingent workers, and vendors who rent space on campus.
“We’re working now to set up [the grant] program and will share information in the coming days about how to apply for assistance,” Drell wrote.
Community members will be able to donate to the grant program, she added, writing that more information on the donation process is forthcoming.
Aid for vendors — which includes cafes, food vendors, the Bike Shop and the Bookstore — will vary depending on the vendor’s individual situation, but will include connecting them with information on how to access CARES Act resources, Drell wrote.
“Stanford is finally acknowledging everybody that makes the university such a special place,” Escañuela said. “Whether you’re a permanent employee or whether you’re contracted, you are part of the community. I can never say that I’ve ever seen Stanford acknowledge and value all workers like they have this time.”
April 15, 7 p.m.: This article has been updated to include E.J. Miranda’s comment.