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Letter to the community: Take action on workers’ petition for hazard pay

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We at Students for Workers’ Rights (SWR) have said it once and we will say it a thousand times: Stanford University is blatantly disregarding workers’ health and well-being to cushion its bottom line. After workers and students stood together to demand pay continuance, the administration promised pay to contracted workers through August 30 (for a full recap of SWR’s current campaign, see our letter to the community). They are now breaking that promise, and ending both pay and benefits at the end of June for those contracted workers ineligible for unemployment. Withholding pay from folks ineligible for unemployment is not “maintaining income and benefits” for contracted firms’ employees, as Provost Drell promised in an email to students on April 14. Stanford lied, once again. 

Simultaneously, both the Stanford administration and UG2 management, a janitorial contracting company, are ignoring a petition (see full language below) signed by UG2 workers who are calling for an additional $5 an hour of hazard pay. Over 100 signatories write:

“Since Stanford closed its doors in March, we have risked the safety of ourselves, our families, and our communities every single day to protect Stanford— and done so with pride. Our high-quality work in keeping the campus clean and sanitary is essential to safeguarding the health of those still living on-campus, and enabling Stanford to reopen in the fall. We are jeopardizing our own safety for Stanford, and are aware that our counterpart janitors who are directly employed by Stanford have been receiving a 10% hourly bonus for continuing parallel work during this pandemic.”

In addition to ignoring the workers’ petition (to date — more than 15 days after submission), UG2 management is overworking custodians at serious risk to their health. Before COVID-19, UG2 workers reported issues of overwork to SWR. Now, conditions have gone from bad to worse. Custodians on the night shift who once were responsible for cleaning one academic building are being told to clean three in the same time period. The more extensive cleaning process for COVID-19 leaves workers to scrub for hours on their hands and knees, creating significant health challenges. In response to worker complaints, UG2 management provided only knee pads. 

Stanford knows that hazard pay is necessary for those working during the pandemic — they are providing it to directly hired workers represented by SEIU Local 2007. Stanford also knows that laid-off workers need pay continuance to survive — they promised to “fill the gap” between government benefits and regular salaries for contracted workers until August 30. Yet Stanford chooses to ignore contracted workers’ call for hazard pay and renege on its promise to provide pay and health benefits. Stanford’s endowment includes $2.55B in buffer funds to “serve as a financial reserve in the event of an earthquake or other disaster.” The administration refuses to engage these funds, instead relying on a false narrative of financial scarcity to cut corners at contracted workers’ expense.

This is unacceptable. To take action alongside workers and SWR, sign the hazard pay letter. Graduating students can sign a no-donation pledge boycotting Stanford’s general fund and instead join our pledge to redirect future income to service workers and Black communities (both on campus and nationally). Community members can engage with these ongoing action items and more at linktr.ee/stanfordswr.

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Full petition language:

“Since Stanford closed its doors in March, we have risked the safety of ourselves, our families, and our communities every single day to protect Stanford— and done so with pride. Our high-quality work in keeping the campus clean and sanitary is essential to safeguarding the health of those still living on-campus, and enabling Stanford to reopen in the fall. We are jeopardizing our own safety for Stanford, and are aware that our counterpart janitors who are directly employed by Stanford have been receiving a 10% hourly bonus for continuing parallel work during this pandemic. We call on UG2 to implement a hazard pay of an additional $5 an hour, retroactive to the start of the University’s facilities closures, to recognize the essential value of our work and the personal risk we shoulder to care for the Stanford community. We expect a response from UG2 and a plan of cooperation with Stanford to provide this hazard pay by June 17th.”

Contact the editors of opinions at opinions ‘at’ stanforddaily.com.

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