By Katie Reveno
Stanford campus workers are calling for an end to workplace harassment.
In a petition sent to University administrators and the custodial company UG2 (the company that contracts many campus workers) on April 13, workers referenced instances of sexual harassment, “unreasonable, excessive work assignments” and “discriminating and intimidating janitors.” They also wrote that UG2 has repeatedly ignored their previous calls for actions to stop the harassment. Since launching the petition, workers and Students for Workers’ Rights (SWR) have been in contact with UG2 and the University, but neither group has made any changes yet.
The workers’ specific demands include the removal of upper UG2 management at Stanford — specifically manager of operations Victor Hugo Cuevas and supervisors Javier Ramirez and Citlati Bracamontes — the reinstatement of janitors who have been “unfairly suspended from work or who have been removed from their work areas” and “the strict enforcement of a zero-tolerance policy for workplace harassment of any kind.” The workers called on UG2 to send a written plan for completing these demands within a week of receiving the petition. If they fail to make changes, the workers demand that Stanford stop contracting janitorial services through the company.
One campus worker, who wishes to remain anonymous due to fear of retaliation, spoke with The Daily about her personal experiences with discrimination while working at Stanford and the lack of action from UG2, saying that in many meetings with management they have called for more respect.
“When [supervisors] are alone with workers, they intimidate them. I have felt discriminated against,” the worker said.
According to SWR, a group of delegates from the labor union Service Employees International Union (SEIU) met with UG2 representatives on May 4. However, UG2 has not shared a plan to address workplace harassment with workers.
UG2 director of operations Grover Brown wrote that UG2 has met with campus workers about harassment concerns and expects to meet with them again in the future. University spokesperson E.J. Miranda wrote that Stanford has also met with UG2 about the petition and plans to follow up in the event that “other concerns arise.”
“UG2 affirmed to us they also have zero-tolerance for such behavior, and has procedures in place to protect employees from discrimination and harassment,” wrote Miranda. “We expect UG2 to address the concerns of its employees who work at Stanford in a fair and prompt manner, and UG2 has assured us that they share that commitment.”
SWR continues to be in contact with University administration about harassment concerns. The University’s initial response to the petition included an email to SWR on April 27 that contained the current policies UG2 and Stanford hold around workplace harassment. According to SWR member Adam Nayak ’22, the student advocacy group met with University Human Resources representatives Thursday to further discuss the petition’s concerns.
Nayak said that the University plans to follow up with UG2 and then provide SWR with more information. At this point, SWR is not satisfied with the University response, according to Nayak.
“We are definitely looking towards more action,” Nayak said. “However, this is an ongoing conversation and we’re really looking forward to the sorts of changes that can come of this in the long term.”
According to SWR member Olivia Fu ’22, SWR has been aware of issues with harassment for “several years” and had plans to address it prior to the pandemic. Fu said that the problem worsened in the past year as workloads increased, culminating in a series of severe harassment cases in late January, which led to the petition. SWR did not share more details or specifics to back up the categories of harassment alleged in the petition.
“But for the sake of the petition everything is what workers are alleging has happened to them,” Fu said.
Fu and other SWR members helped workers write the petition, translating and formatting some of their demands. But she emphasized that “everything that is in the letter comes from the workers themselves. We just made it into an open letter from a list of demands.”