By Kate Selig
About 60 of the 80 workers laid off by UG2 in the spring, a national custodial service Stanford contracts with, did not receive pay continuation between June 15 and Aug. 31, according to Service Employees International Union (SEIU) leadership.
Stanford committed in April to supporting contract firms in maintaining income and benefits for employees through June 15, and later extended that policy through Aug. 31. The University wrote in May that it had been working with contract firms to provide resources that when combined with government resources such as unemployment assistance would support firms in maintaining pay continuation.
Between April 6 and June 15, all the approximately 80 laid-off workers received pay continuation. But after June 15, about 60 workers who did not qualify for federal employment benefits, such as those who work multiple jobs, no longer received pay continuation, according to SEIU Janitorial Bay Area Coordinator Cesar Quiles.
University spokesperson E.J. Miranda wrote in an email to The Daily that “Stanford met its stated commitment to UG2 for pay continuation of laid-off workers through August 31, exactly as communicated to UG2 and the custodial union.”
UG2 and campus UG2 leadership did not respond to multiple requests for comment. It is unclear what responsibility for the lack of pay continuation lies with Stanford and what lies with UG2.
Union leaders and workers said the lack of pay has hurt individuals and families who rely on that money.
“We’re facing a pandemic, and people still have to pay rent and buy food to put on the table,” said SEIU California 1st Vice President Denise Solis. “Stanford could fix this tomorrow by writing a check.”
A worker who retained their job said she knew laid-off co-workers who were now cleaning houses and selling food, like tamales and pupusas, to make ends meet. Others, she said, have gone to Mexico to find work.
One laid-off worker said neither Stanford nor UG2 clearly communicated what had changed after June 15 when she stopped receiving pay continuation. The loss of money has been hard.
“I am struggling — I am a single mother of three children, and only I brought support to my home,” she said. “I need my job.”
Miranda declined to comment on concerns raised about the consequences of the loss of pay continuation.
Union leaders said the loss of pay continuation is compounded by laid-off UG2 workers not knowing when they will come back to work. At the time of the layoffs, UG2 wrote in a notice to government agencies that they hope to bring back “some or all” of the employees once “business conditions improve” and “government officials permit our customer(s) to resume operations.”
“We are getting calls from members that ask every day when are they coming back to work, and we don’t know what to tell them anymore,” Solis said.
Miranda declined to directly comment on the union’s concerns, citing a November update from Provost Persis Drell. Drell wrote that bringing more students to campus would require more in-person staffing. The update did not mention contract firms.
Students have also taken up the issue of pay continuation. The Undergraduate Senate and Graduate Student Council passed a resolution authored by Students for Workers’ Rights in early fall urging Stanford to provide the pay continuation, as well as augment current policies to include hazard pay and access to proper protection for workers during the pandemic.
The Associated Students of Stanford University (ASSU) has since requested that the Faculty Senate discuss the matter. The Faculty Senate’s Steering Committee, which is responsible for setting the Faculty Senate’s agenda, will discuss how to proceed with the request on Jan. 19, according to Assistant Academic Secretary Adrienne Emory, who added that the issue is not within the Faculty Senate’s jurisdiction.
ASSU Co-Director of Community Responsibility Adam Nayak ’22 called on Stanford to rectify the issue.
“Regardless of where this misstep occurred, the fact remains that these workers are without pay three months after they were promised pay and are without any sort of idea as to why this occurred,” he said. “Let’s just fix the situation.”
Quotes from UG2 workers were given in Spanish and were translated into English. Some were lightly edited in translation. Workers were left anonymous for fear of retaliation.