University janitorial workers contracted through UG2 are asking members of the Stanford community for support as they prepare to enter negotiation meetings with UG2 on May 6. The union of UG2 janitorial staff is calling for a $2 increase in hourly wages each year over the next three years, an increase in vacation days and hazard pay for work during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The Stanford administration is only a representation of its students, which is why we have appealed to you all for your support and to raise awareness, both with the University and with UG2,” said union representative and janitorial worker Inmar Liborio in an interview originally conducted in Spanish. Liborio is a member of the janitorial executive board and vice president of the Northern California Janitorial Division.
In addition to the wage increase, the janitorial union is requesting four additional vacation days. The requested vacation period would align with the University’s annual closure period. Among the union’s other priorities are a new dental plan for workers employed for more than five years, a 60-cent pension increase and hazard pay for work during the pandemic.
“We’re not asking for the moon or the stars. These are minimal things because the world is very expensive,” Liborio said. “We do a job that I would say is excellent and we are not getting what we deserve. We are asking for equality.”
Stanford service workers are employed either by the University itself or by UG2, a custodial and logistics company with which Stanford contracts. For staff members employed directly by Stanford, contract negotiations with the University occur via the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) 2700, while UG2 subcontracted workers are represented by the California division SEIU USWW.
Last September, SEIU negotiated a collective master contract for all of California and managed to achieve a small salary increase for the 22 janitorial companies it represents, which include UG2, according to Liborio. This contract is state-wide and does not take into account the specific needs of janitorial workers at Stanford, Liborio said. Because of this, side agreements are often negotiated to address more nuanced issues.
In March 2021, Stanford asked janitorial workers to present information on their demands, prompting the subcontracted workers to form a committee to prepare a formal request letter to send to the University. A copy of the letter was also sent to UG2, which Liborio said had hired a representative who tried to discourage workers from pursuing the requests.
The Daily has reached out to UG2 for comment.
“While presenting a proposal of a salary increase and other small benefits that could slightly mitigate our economic crises, in an extra collective contract, which we call a side letter agreement, we have received a negative attitude from UG2 executives,” the janitorial union said in a statement calling for community support for the UG2 staff employed at Stanford. The statement was originally written in Spanish and translated by The Daily.
The janitorial union statement explains that as of February 2022, janitors directly hired by Stanford received a wage increase of $125 every two weeks as a form of hazard pay for working during the pandemic, which they will receive until December 2022. In addition, as of March, these workers received a 3% wage increase. Since this increase was negotiated between directly hired workers and Stanford, subcontracted workers did not receive a wage increase.
“We, the janitors hired by the company UG2, ask for understanding and justice as we have cleaned and disinfected Stanford University facilities since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, and many of our partners were infected, bringing the disease to their families,” the statement reads. “On Tuesday, April 12, UG2 presented us with a counterproposal, in which we are denied the requested increase, arguing that what was negotiated in the master contract was sufficient for our work.”
While Stanford said that it appreciates the work of UG2 custodians, it said that the negotiations are between the union and UG2, not the University.
“While the University is not a party to those contract talks, we hope the two sides can reach an agreement soon,” wrote Stanford spokesperson E.J. Miranda in a statement.
The UG2 janitorial union has asked Stanford Students for Workers Rights (SWR) for help in garnering student support ahead of the May 5 negotiations. In the days that followed, SWR created a petition that has amassed over 1,000 signatures. Their goal is to amplify janitorial voices and support the workers’ efforts.
“It was raised to our attention that this is happening and that janitorial staff are not getting what they want,” said Ashwin Prabu ’25, a member of SWR. “A petition seemed like the easiest, more implementable way that we could show numbers and quantify Stanford student support.”
In addition to the petition, SWR hosted a teach-in on Saturday to discuss next steps. Approximately 15 students gathered on Columbae lawn and some joined virtually to speak about the current state of the janitorial contracts as well as how to get further involved with SWR. Students were prompted to share their thoughts on how they view Stanford, with some using terms like “landlord,” “business” and “concentrated wealth.”
SWR also tabled during Admit Weekend alongside the Young Democratic Socialists of America and wrote messages in chalk encouraging students to sign the petition.
“There are kids on campus that do care about these issues and would be infuriated if they heard about what is going on,” Prabu said. “It’s simply about raising awareness about the current issue.”
During the teach-in, SWR leaders also gave an overview of the history of inequality related to subcontracting companies. They explained that there have been nationwide discrepancies between how directly hired and subcontracted workers are treated. During the pandemic, for example, many directly-hired workers who were laid off were still paid, while most subcontracted workers were laid off with no pay and lost benefits.
Liborio explained that janitors at Stanford have protected students during the COVID-19 pandemic, putting their own lives at risk. Now, he hopes subcontracted janitors receive the recognition and support they deserve. He also expressed strong appreciation for students’ support and hopes it continues as they head into negotiations.
“In a union meeting we had last week, I did tell them that the students will support us. We recognize students’ fight for justice. As it’s written on Green Library, ‘No Justice, No Peace.’ We, as janitors, try to keep the peace, but when we need to fight, we will fight,” Liborio said.