Widgets Magazine

Petition against night hours for Engineering Quad janitors

Janitors in the Science and Engineering Quad (SEQ) recently had their hours changed from regular daytime hours to middle-of-the-night shifts without a wage increase, according to the Student and Labor Alliance (SALA).

SALA, a student group dedicated to supporting workers on campus, is calling the change a workers’ rights abuse and is currently circulating a petition to either restore daytime hours or raise wages to compensate for the more challenging 8 p.m.-4 a.m. workday.

The petition also asks that in the future, workers be consulted and have the opportunity to consent to changes in their hours before those changes are implemented. Over 1,600 students have signed the petition so far.

“Stanford falls short of its goal to create an enriching environment when workers’ rights are being violated,” the petition states.

According to SALA members Emma Hartung ’17 and Cenobio Hernandez ’18, who is also a recently elected ASSU senator, the new hours make it difficult for employees to manage childcare, healthy living, commuting to work and other daily tasks.

“I’m proud of going to Stanford, but I can’t say that if Stanford is disrespecting its workers,” Hernandez said. 

In a March email to SALA, Luke Thivierge, the associate director of SEQ Operations to whom the petition is addressed, indicated that the janitors’ hours were changed partly due to concerns regarding interruptions to classes and research and lack of janitorial access to spaces occupied during the day.

However, according to Hernandez, most students and faculty don’t find janitors to be a disturbance during the daytime.

“There’s been a majority of people that are involved in those Engineering Quad buildings…who believe that the janitors do not disrupt the work in any way, so I feel like it was a really excessive decision to make that change,” Hernandez said.

Of those who signed the petition, around 700 were students or faculty taking classes or doing research in the Engineering Quad, Hartung said.

“Interacting with […] staff during working hours creates a more diverse working environment and is important for everyone. Their daytime work has not interfered with any of our work, on the contrary it is beneficial,” wrote assistant professor of bioengineering David Camarillo along with his signature on the petition.

Francisco Capristan, a petition signatory and fourth-year Ph.D. student in aeronautics and astronautics, worked as a night-shift janitor for a year when he first came to the United States.

“Being a janitor is really hard, because a lot of people are insensitive to it, a lot of people don’t appreciate what you do. And then you have to work the nights, and working the nights is hard…you have to rearrange your life,” Capristan said.

According to Capristan, working those hours disrupts the worker’s sleep schedule. And for those who don’t have cars, public transportation or carpools can be difficult to arrange at irregular hours. 

It is unjust, said Capristan, for these significant inconveniences not to be additionally compensated.

Two SEQ buildings, Shriram and Spilker, have always used night shift workers for most cleaning tasks, said Thivierge in an email to the Daily. DTZ, the contractor employing the workers, suggested switching the other buildings, Huang and Y2E2, to night shift work because it is easier to clean unoccupied buildings. 

“This change has allowed our janitorial contractor to meet our objective to provide safe and clean space to support teaching and research,” wrote Thivierge. “We have no involvement in setting wages or working conditions for the janitors. Those are covered by their collective bargaining agreement with the employer.” 

There are few mechanisms in place to hold Stanford accountable for workers’ conditions, Hartung added, because workers are employed through DTZ, not directly by the University. 

Still, Hartung says that as a DTZ client the University can take a stand.

“There’s really no reason that respecting the agency and the rights and the humanity of everyone on Stanford’s campus shouldn’t be something that everyone can get behind,” Hartung said.

 

Contact Abigail Schott-Rosenfield at aschott ‘at’ stanford.edu

About Abigail Schott-Rosenfield

Abigail Schott-Rosenfield '18 is a news staff writer and graduate student outreach strategist at the Daily. Contact her at aschott 'at' stanford.edu.