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Campus Worker Highlight: Week 3

The Campus Workers’ Rights Coalition and members of CSRE 35SI: “An Introduction to Labor Organizing” have put together a series of profiles drawn from both archival and current interviews with workers on campus to highlight both the struggles that workers at Stanford face and the resilience that they bring to the work they do. Campus workers often have to deal with chronic understaffing, difficult menial labor and hours-long commutes due to a lack of affordable housing in the Bay Area.

Both the Campus Workers’ Rights Coalition and the members of CSRE 35SI believe that students can play a powerful role in supporting the rights of workers on campus. This is an especially pivotal time for students to get involved, since unionized workers’ current contract will be expiring this upcoming summer. This means that the labor union on campus, SEIU Local 2007, and Residential and Dining Enterprises (R&DE) will enter contract negotiations and hopefully finalize a new contract that addresses workers’ needs.

You can help support workers two big ways: (1) Sign this petition calling on Stanford to provide its workers equitable benefits and a living wage, and (2) attend the May Day rally happening on May 1 from 2:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. in White Plaza to stand in solidarity with campus workers.

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“… and to all those who died, scrubbed floors, wept and fought for us.”

We meet under these painted words in the Casa Zapata side of Stern dining hall. The quote is a fitting reflection of Rafael’s personal philosophy — one of intense gratitude for the hard work of those before him.

Rafael has worked at Stanford for 23 years, 19 of which he has served as the lead custodian for Stern Hall. He lives about 20 miles away in Milpitas, but says that his commute is pretty smooth now. The quality of his commute has been one of the successes of his involvement in the union. Previously, he began work at 7:45 a.m., and spent 45 minutes driving to campus and an hour driving home. As a union steward, he was able to communicate his and his coworkers’ concerns to the management. After an initial pilot program, Rafael and other custodians were able to secure a 6:45 AM start time, which allows for less time spent in traffic and searching for parking on campus.

On the whole, Rafael is grateful for the union because it gives employees a voice in their workplace. He feels that the current contract is pretty good, and attributes its quality to the past workers who sacrificed and fought for crucial improvements. He is well-educated on the benefits and history of union organizing, having taken labor classes at San Jose City College upon learning he would become a steward for the union.

Looking forward, though, Rafael hopes to continue to strengthen the contract, so that it can help attract and recruit the best workers from other areas. He also hopes that students will support the upcoming contract by encouraging other workers to attend the May Day rally on May 1, which will show the university that union members are engaged and committed to securing important improvements in the contract. Overall, Rafael’s message is one of gratitude towards the past and positivity for the future.

Contact Campus Workers’ Rights Coalition at stanfordworkersrights ‘at’ gmail.com.

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