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SALA Rally brings awareness to worker’s rights
Student showed solidarity with custodial staff at SALA's Monday rally (ROBERT SHI/The Stanford Daily).

SALA Rally brings awareness to worker’s rights

The Stanford Student and Labor Alliance (SALA) led a rally to support Bay Area janitorial staff in their pursuit of better wages and working conditions Monday in White Plaza.

SALA emphasized that the organization is a partner for the workers’ unions, including the SEIU, and that the rally reflected the wishes of the workers themselves.

“We’re here to show our support for these workers, and show that we care about fair wages, especially as living costs grow in the Bay Area” said Bunnard Phan ’18, a SALA member.

Emma Hartung ’17, a third-year member of SALA, expressed that janitorial staff need student awareness and support to fight for better conditions.

“Today specifically, SALA’s main mission is that we want to mobilize Stanford students and call on broader Bay Area tech companies to do what’s right and give their workers living wages and better health benefits,” she said.

Stanford janitorial staff and local Bay Area workers are working in a negotiation to sign contracts with local tech companies to secure higher wages, healthcare benefits, protection against assault and unfair strain in the workplace.

The rally commenced with photographs expressing solidarity with workers’ statements, printed in both English and Spanish.

Speeches began with a brief introduction by SALA member and ASSU Senator Cenobio Hernandez ’18 and SALA member Rocio Hernandez ’18, who shared one worker’s statement.

Although the workers and staff could not be present at the rally due to conflicts with working hours, SALA representatives wanted to ensure that their voices were heard.

Rocio Hernandez shared the worker’s statement in the original Spanish, as Hernandez translated in English.

“That’s why we thank you — the students — for this rally,” the statement said. “Thank you for your support. Together, we can win a good contract.”

A Stanford janitorial staff member, who could not attend and prefers to remain anonymous, said she greatly appreciated what the students in SALA represent.

“It is nice to know that students support us,” she said, translated from Spanish. “We like to feel appreciated.”

“I have a child at home, and I am trying to learn English as well,” she added. “It is nice to have support.”

The rally continued with SALA’s statement, read by members Jacob Waggoner ’16 and Dan Sakaguchi ’16, expressing the workers’ need for better conditions.

“Campus workers have asked us, the Stanford community — the students, the faculty, community members — to demand an end to the economic injustices that workers face,” Waggoner said.

According to Bay Area statistics, workers need to earn at least 20 dollars per hour to sustain a family, and the majority of the janitorial staff population’s wages do not meet that standard. Most of the workers are women of Latino descent, and they are the primary breadwinners for their families.

“Their needs are non-negotiable — both for them and their loved ones,” Sakaguchi said.

SALA leaders shared that it is especially important that Stanford students are involved in this negotiation, as Stanford has so many connections to local tech companies.

Student groups represented included Fossil Free Stanford, Stanford Asian American Activism Community and Habla, an organization designed to teach English to Spanish-speaking custodial staff.

Shreya Ramachandran ’16, co-chair of Habla, expressed her interest in the rally as well.

“Stanford workers are part of our larger community — just like we are — and it’s so important to recognize what struggles they face every day and do what we can to help them out,” she said.

The rally ended with a chant and a group photo to be shared on SALA’s Facebook page along with a livestream video of the rally.

SALA member Kirsten Willer ’17 also stated that students could share support through individual acts of kindness towards staff as well as participate in another rally at Intel this Wednesday at 3 p.m.

Willer, along with other SALA members, stressed the importance of student representation at rallies on and off campus. Phan agreed with Willer that students need to be active supporters.

“It’s important for students to stand in solidarity with workers and to show tech companies in the area that we really care about fair wages and better working conditions for workers,”  Phan said.

Contact Gillian Brassil at gbrassil ‘at’ stanford.edu.