Widgets Magazine

OPINIONS

Editorial: To Fire or Not To Fire?

Twenty-nine Stanford janitors — more than one in five of those who clean academic buildings — will lose their jobs this June if Stanford does nothing to defend them. For five months, workers and students organized by Stanford Labor Action Coalition (SLAC) have demonstrated and petitioned for these workers’ jobs. Due to these efforts, 26 janitors were permanently rehired, while a further 29 were provisionally rehired until some unconfirmed date in June. Despite this, the administration continues to maintain its non-involvement and to push the responsibility for the situation onto UGL-Unicco, the janitorial services subcontractor and the janitors’ direct employer. Stanford claims that this situation only concerns UGL-Unicco and the janitors’ union, Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1877, since Stanford does not directly employ these janitors.

While this may be contractually true, the unjust treatment of any member of the Stanford community should ethically concern us all. We believe that the Stanford administration is shirking its responsibility to ensure just treatment for all members of the Stanford community. UGL-Unicco will work to satisfy the needs and wants of its client, Stanford University. If the administration indicates its interest in the continued employment of all 29 janitors, UGL-Unicco will surely allow them to stay.

Many of the 29 have worked at Stanford for more than a decade without incident. Yet, a reasonable person might ask, the University is still under budgetary pressure — shouldn’t we value fiscal security above janitors’ jobs? Such a question assumes incorrectly, however, that Stanford would cut any expenses whatsoever by laying off the workers in question.

Since Stanford pays UGL-Unicco a monthly lump-sum, only UGL-Unicco benefits from these lay-offs. Since the prior wages of the janitors were factored into the lump-sum negotiated with the University, UGL-Unicco would greatly increase their profits by firing current janitors, especially those who have seniority and make up to $13.09 per hour with full benefits, and in their place hiring new workers for $9.15 who have no benefits or healthcare, a number far below Stanfords living wage of $13.49 per hour without health benefits. In this way, Stanford students and administrators will be paying the same amount of money for inferior, inexperienced, untested and untrusted services. Only UGL-Unicco’s bottom line benefits.

UGL-Unicco has also tried to force janitors out by pretending they are illegal immigrations. In a previous oped, a UGL-Unicco janitor and a student from SLAC explained that when Stanford replaced ABM with UGL-Unicco last year, citing a desire for improved service, 55 of 134 janitors were issued letters stating that they would no longer be offered work after December 1st due to identity check discrepancies. The op-ed went on to explain that all of the workers were able to present I-9 documentation, fulfilling the federal requirement for legal authorization to work in the United States. As a result, “whatever problems that may have come up with the additional identity checks that UGL-Unicco performed were not a valid reason to end these workers’ jobs.”

Considering this record of false claims, and UGL-Unicco’s lack of disclosure of the source database for these discrepancies, the root of this issue is clearly not based on an issue of documentation.

In addition to the 29 workers whose jobs are at stake, this situation has the grave potential of setting a precedent that could affect the job security, wages and benefits of all Stanford workers in the future. Stanford should not stand for UGL-Unicco mismanaging contract funds that Stanford has allocated in good faith to improve services, not to fire experienced workers whose wages we’ve already agreed to pay.

We applaud the efforts of the UGL-Unicco workers and their student supporters in advancing this cause and encourage other students to actively participate in this campaign to demonstrate our care and value for all members of the Stanford community. We call on the University’s administration to use its leverage over UGL-Unicco to support these efforts until the contractor permanently rehires all current janitors, the demand that 2,000 members of the Stanford community articulated in a December petition. Stanford has a founding commitment to “promote the public welfare…on behalf of humanity and civilization”; by allowing a contractor to fool us with a bait-and-switch, we sell out our values too cheaply.

About Editorial Board

Editorials represent the views of The Stanford Daily, an independent newspaper serving Stanford and the surrounding community. The Daily's Editorial Board consists of President and Editor-in-Chief Victor Xu '17, Executive Editor Will Ferrer '18, Managing Editor of Opinions Michael Gioia '17, Desk Editor of Opinions Jimmy Stephens '17, Senior Staff Writer Kylie Jue '17, Senior Staff Writer Olivia Hummer '17 and Senior Staff Writer Andrew Vogeley '17. To contact the Editorial Board chair, submit an op-ed (limited to 700 words) or submit a letter to the editor (limited to 500 words) at eic@stanforddaily.com.