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SCoPE 2035, SEIU 2007 spotlight housing issues, job conditions for Stanford workers

Students met with dining hall workers to discuss their job conditions in January. (JORDAN PAYNE/The Stanford Daily)

The Stanford Coalition for Planning an Equitable 2035 (SCoPE 2035) collaborated with Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 2007 to organize a two-day stickering campaign and an unofficial campus tour on Saturday — the second day of Family Weekend — to address housing and job conditions of Stanford workers.

Workers’ housing concerns

Stanford union workers and SCoPE members donned “Affordable Housing For All” stickers on Friday and Saturday to raise awareness about workers’ housing issues. The tour, according to SCoPE 2035 student organizer Nani Friedman ’20, was aimed at raising awareness about Stanford workers’ job conditions.

At Stanford, just one in 400 union service workers are provided on-campus housing. According to  SEIU Local 2007 President and Campus Landscape Technician Jose Escanuela, Deputy Maria Gomez and an unnamed sergeant in the University’s public safety department recently left their jobs, citing an inability to find housing in the area.

The Bay Area is undergoing a major housing crisis, due in part to an influx of high-income households and gentrification of traditionally low-income neighborhoods. Increases in property value have caused the jobs-to-homes ratio in East Palo Alto, Redwood City, San Jose and San Mateo to shift to about 2 to 1. The crisis has also resulted in increasing housing evictions in the area, especially of members of communities of color.

Yessica Lopez, a University-housed worker who has served as a cook at Arrillaga Dining for 15 years, said that she waited three years for her application for below-market rate housing on campus to be approved. Until last year, she and her family paid $1,500 per month to live in a single room of a house shared with strangers in East Palo Alto.

“I waited for three years, during which I almost gave up on the Bay Area altogether,” Lopez said. “Since we moved here, our quality of life has improved tremendously. I think Stanford should give all my co-workers this opportunity, so that we can really feel like we’re a part of the Stanford community.”

Dining hall job conditions

Other issues covered during the tour include what Rafael Repreza, a dining hall worker at Lakeside Dining, described as poor job conditions and violations of workers’ rights by the administration.

On Jan. 12, Stanford dining workers wore stickers demanding “respect and [a] fair workload.” They were asked to remove these stickers because they contained messaging that was “disparaging of Stanford,” according to Director of Employee and Labor Relations Linda Usoz.

As of Monday night, R&DE spokesperson Jocelyn Breeland did not respond to The Daily’s request for comment.

This weekend’s stickering campaign proceeded without any reported objection from the administration.

“We understand SCoPE’s position and respect their right to advocate on this issue,” University Spokesperson E.J. Miranda wrote in an email to The Daily. “We were aware that some employees were wearing the stickers last Friday and Saturday, which they may do as long as the stickers are consistent with the provisions of the union contract. These stickers appeared to be so.”

According to Miranda, the University has “verified reports” that some students removed information about “recruitment efforts, training and advancement opportunities and union-negotiated wages and benefits” that was distributed in dining halls by R&DE.

Mariposa cited understaffing as a central issue raised by the Jan. 12 event.

“We’ve been severely understaffed, with staff working two to three jobs but not getting paid for this extra work,” Mariposa said. “We can’t actually say no to these requests, because it’d be considered insubordination. It’s ‘you do it, or you do it,’ basically.”

In a prior statement to The Daily, Breeland wrote that R&DE faces “the same challenges” as local employers and other branches of the University in “filling all positions.” She added that, despite a “challenging job market,” R&DE has taken “a number of steps to recruit and retain skilled workers,” such as participating in local job fairs and passing referral cards for potential hires to employees and the union. Breeland also contested allegations of worker intimidation said that Stanford complies with its collective bargaining agreement.

An ongoing project

Since fall 2016, SCoPE 2035 has been organizing awareness-based events like teach-ins, panels and now the unofficial Family Weekend tour to generate student support around workers’ housing issues.

“Since the emergence of the impending General Use Permit (GUP) in 2018, we began these conversations on campus,” Friedman said.

The GUP, a proposal to Santa Clara County regarding Stanford’s land use plans for the next 18 years, calls for the development of 3,150 additional housing units on campus, along with a $56 million contribution to housing development in the Palo Alto area. It also estimates the total University population to grow by 9,610 individuals by 2035.

SCoPE 2035 tour guides suggested that a portion of the University’s endowment of nearly $22.4 billion be spent on increasing the availability of on-campus housing.

In an email to The Daily, University spokesperson E.J. Miranda wrote that the University is working to address housing concerns in and around campus.

“We welcome [SCoPE 2035’s] participation and engagement as the 2018 GUP proceeds,” Miranda wrote. “We have been working to expand nearby housing, including the Middle Plaza project in Menlo Park with 215 housing units for faculty and staff. We also have a range of transportation programs that offer free Caltrain passes, shuttles to the East Bay and free parking for carpools.”

According to SCOPE 2035 Media Liason Erica Knox ’16 M.A. ’18, these transportation benefits are not offered to “casuals,” or part-time workers. She added that East Bay buses are not available past 9 p.m., the Caltrain stops running at midnight and the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority bus and rail lines do not operate past 1 a.m. However, Knox said that this poses an inconvenience for many workers who get off as late as 3 a.m.

Recently, Provost Persis Drell also formed a multi-department housing “task force” to tackle housing issues.

Moving forward, Escanuela said he remains optimistic about the University’s handling of workers’ issues.

“The new leadership, specifically the president and provost, have been extremely cordial and receptive when listening to our concerns,” he said. “We also understand that they have 30-plus trustees to get on board with the decisions. However, our demands are specific and achievable: We want below-market rate housing units for our workers on campus.”

 

Contact Surbhi Sachdeva at surbhi3 ‘at’ stanford.edu.

 

The photo caption from an earlier version of this article mistakenly identified individuals in the photo as students involved SCoPE 2035 and SEIU. In fact, the individuals in the photo are students involved in the dining hall campaign. The caption also misstated that the individuals pictured met to discuss housing issues. Rather, the subject of the meeting was limited to workers’ job conditions.

A prior version of this article also stated that under SCoPE 2035’s estimate, the University will generate 9,600 jobs over the next 18 years under the General Use Plan (GUP). This statement was incorrectly attributed to SCoPE 2035, and has been factually corrected to reflect the University’s projected population growth, rather than job growth, as estimated by the GUP.

Also, an earlier version of this article misspelled Yessica Lopez’s last name and incorrectly stated Rafael Repreza’s last name. The Daily regrets these errors.

Finally, this article has been updated to include additional details regarding transportation benefits provided to workers by the University.

 

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