By Elena Shao
U.S. presidential candidate and former U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Julián Castro ’96 attended a Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 2007 meeting on March 23 to discuss his support for campus workers in preparation for their upcoming contract negotiations with the University.
In a letter to Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne and Provost Persis Drell, Castro urged the University to negotiate in a manner that “affirms the value of service workers and staff.” California state Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez ’93 also authored a letter in support of workers in upcoming negotiations, asking Stanford to “take care of the workers who take care of the University.”
“I have a voice here as an alum, as a friend and also as a candidate for president — and I’ll use that voice to support you,” Castro said to the union members in attendance at the meeting. Attendees included members of SEIU Local 2007, their sister group Local 521 and members from SEIU United Healthcare Workers-West, which represents healthcare workers at Stanford Hospital.
“We look forward to collaborating with SEIU Local 2007 in positive and good faith negotiations to reach an agreement on a new contract,” wrote University spokesperson E.J. Miranda in an email to The Daily.
The meeting precedes collective bargaining agreement (CBA) negotiations between SEIU Local 2007 and Stanford’s Board of Trustees. The current agreement went into effect on Sept. 5, 2014 and will end on Aug. 31.
“Even though Stanford University is a great place to work, it is not immune to the pitfalls of the workplace,” SEIU Local 2007 Vice President David Perkins wrote in an email to The Daily. “Although the relationship is inherently adverse, union advocates provide a great benefit to the University [by expressing] our concerns about social and economic injustice.”
Perkins, the lead for Stanford’s road maintenance crew, has worked at Stanford for over 24 years and will be participating in CBA negotiations for the third time. Despite entering on “inherently adverse” footing, the previous contract negotiations were conducted under a more collaborative style of negotiating known as interest-based bargaining and approved “overwhelmingly” by SEIU, according to Stanford News.
According to SEIU Local 2007 Executive Director Francisco Preciado, the new round of negotiations will address affordability concerns, particularly in light of Stanford’s proposed expansion under its 2018 General Use Permit application.
In particular, Castro recalled seeing the rental affordability crisis start to pick up while he was a student at Stanford in the mid-90s, citing East Palo Alto’s transformation from a low-income neighborhood “in distress” to one with a Four Seasons hotel as an example of how unaffordable housing in the area has become.
“But that means that institutions like Stanford have a special responsibility to make sure that they pay a living wage, a good wage,” Castro added.
While at Stanford, Castro was a member of the Associated Students of Stanford University (ASSU) Undergraduate Senate. He would later win an election for mayor of San Antonio, Texas and serve as HUD cabinet secretary under former President Barack Obama’s second term, positions in which Castro said he became familiar with SEIU
When asked about his vision to support workers, Castro said that he would push for increasing the minimum wage — which has not been raised in a decade since 2009 — to $15 an hour. He also offered assurances that, if elected, he would make appointments to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and his cabinet that are receptive to the concerns of workers’ rights.
Castro added that finding affordable housing is a “tremendous stress on families” affecting their quality of life — a stress that the members of the campus workers’ union “know better than most of the rest of the country.”
“This year is different, but usually in presidential campaigns, people don’t even get asked about housing — even though it affects every single lower income family,” Castro said.
Perkins said that he was excited to hear about Castro’s affordable housing plan and his efforts to support good union jobs, noting that Stanford workers “should not have to work two jobs to survive.”
“As a former student here, I know that oftentimes when people talk about their higher education experience, they talk about the professor they had, some class that they took, their friends,” Castro said. “I also know that the [University staff and service workers] play such a vital role in ensuring that the University is able to fulfill its exceptional mission.”