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Workers union enters 2019 with new caucuses, increased student involvement

Union prepares for this year’s collective bargaining agreement negotiations

HOLDEN FOREMAN / The Stanford Daily

As Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 2007 prepares for this year’s collective bargaining agreement negotiations with Stanford, two new caucuses and increased student involvement have marked above-average participation among union members. Jenna Mains, associate director of Local 2007, Stanford’s SEIU chapter, said the current contract campaign — with negotiations set to conclude by the end of the existing contract on Aug. 31 — “is probably the earliest the union has ever started.”

On Dec. 5, the union hosted back-to-back general meetings at Tresidder Oak Lounge after two days of student phone banking efforts to rally union members. At the meeting, union leadership solicited feedback from members on what issues should be brought up by the union’s 14-member negotiations team as it works to establish a new contract with Stanford.

Both Mains and negotiations team member Peter Eugenio said that the relatively high attendance of the Dec. 5 general meeting was encouraging. Mains noted that many union members live far off campus, in areas such as Central Valley and Stockton.

“It’s a huge commute,” Mains said. “So to get [members] to come after their shift just shows how much they really care about what’s going on because it affects their family.”

 

Student work with SEIU

Due in part to a conscious effort by the union to increase student involvement, as well as the service-minded nature of Stanford students themselves, Mains said, the union has been more effective leading up to this year’s contract negotiations. Eugenio praised the role of students in motivating SEIU members’ participation.

“If we want to put the fight to the ground once it comes to negotiations time, we need to make sure we have the solidarity, knowing the members have our back, because we know we have the support of the students already,” Eugenio said.

Mains said the University tends to care more about student concerns than the concerns of its workers.

“We’ve noticed that when [Stanford] students are involved, [Stanford] management actually listens a little more,” she said.

However, Stanford spokesperson E.J. Miranda wrote in an email to The Daily that “the University welcomes and values feedback from our entire community.”

“Faculty, students and staff — including staff represented by a union — all make important contributions to the University,” he added.

Mains cited multiple examples of student involvement in Local 2007, including the work of Liz Atkin ’19 as an intern with the union in the first eight weeks of the 2018 summer quarter. Mains noted that Atkin received a grant through a University program to support her work using data analysis to compare wage, age group, gender and job classification statistics among union workers with industry standards.

“We also have other students who are helping with worksite meetings … helping co-facilitate,” Mains said.

While the actual work contributions of students to Local 2007 are valuable, she said, their involvement “is really more about broadening the Stanford community to include the workers with the students in the same groups.”

“This year, with the student support, the workers are definitely becoming a little bit emboldened, are less afraid to show their support for their union,” Mains added. “[They] are less afraid to stand up to management because the students will follow up.”

After completing her summer internship with SEIU, Atkin has helped organize the winter quarter course CSRE 35SI: An Introduction to Labor Organizing on Campus for students to learn more about union issues and the role of students in building “an intersectional labor movement.”

In an interview with The Daily, Atkin said the level of member involvement at the Dec. 5 general union meeting was “unusual.”

“[Local 2007 is] starting to organize more,” she said.

 

New SEIU Caucuses

2019 is the first contract negotiations year in which SEIU Local 2007 is organizing a women’s caucus and Filipino caucus with the aim of better representing the perspectives of union members in these two communities.

Eugenio said that the current negotiations team — which includes elected members and members of the union’s executive council — added a female member to the team in 2018 because of her involvement with the women’s caucus.

“We wanted to get a woman’s point of view,” Eugenio said.

He added that, in his conversations with union members, he has found wages, retirement and health care to be three prominent concerns. And, similar to Mains, Eugenio said he believes the phone banking was a factor in the relatively high turnout at the Dec. 5 general meeting where the union solicited member input.

“The last time we had a meeting on campus it was disappointing because not enough folks came out,” Eugenio said.

Adrian Bonifacio ’13, who works in youth programming and outreach at the San Francisco Filipino Community Center, led the organization of the Filipino caucus.

“It’s really meaningful work to me,” he said. “My family were also Filipino immigrants. It would have been great if they had help through their unions.”

Bonifacio added that, while concerns surrounding healthcare, wages and overwork are common among workers at Stanford, there are specific issues beyond these that are relevant to Filipino workers and their communities. As examples, he mentioned immigration issues and national concerns in the Philippines.

“Our hope for the caucus is really to get together Filipino workers to talk about their concerns, whether it’s based on their labor conditions at Stanford or even just their concerns as Filipino migrants or immigrants here in the states [and] to kind of link those issues together [to] provide a support system and a group that can help them fight for their rights,” Bonifacio said.

He noted that, over the past couple of years, the Filipino Community Center has worked with student groups such as the Stanford Coalition for Planning an Equitable 2035 (SCoPE 2035) and the Pilipino-American Student Union (PASU) at Stanford.

“Housing is definitely something that I know is on the union’s radar; it’s on students’ radars, organizations like SCoPE 2035, and then for us as well as we’re thinking about what are the concerns for Filipino workers,” Bonifacio said.

He added that the formation of the Campus Workers’ Coalition last fall has been helpful in efficiently supporting members of various communities within the campus worker community.

“We were like, ‘Hey, all of these organizations are working around workers’ rights issues; why don’t we come together as a coalition to figure out how we can support each other’s work and also plan for things together and have a united effort?’” Bonifacio said.

Since its formation, he said, the coalition has helped organize initiatives such as the phone banking for the Dec. 5 SEIU meeting, as well as general outreach, worksite visits and teach-ins related to workers’ issues.

“It’s been great working with all of these different student groups,” Bonifacio said. “We can see community groups, student groups and the union all working together, and it’s been dope.”

 

This article has been updated to clarify that SEIU Local 2007 did not pay Liz Atkin any money for her summer internship. She received grant money directly through Stanford. Also, the subhead for this article previously stated incorrectly that SEIU Local 2007’s collective bargaining agreement negotiations with Stanford are annual. The Daily regrets these errors.

Contact Holden Foreman at hs4man21 ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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