Around 80 students and workers from several UC campuses staged an action last Wednesday during the public comment portion of this September’s UC Regents meeting, protesting against what they claim has been the mistreatment of hospital valet workers at UCLA’s Ronald Reagan Hospital.
The hospital’s valet workers, previously contract workers, are set to be replaced by in-house part-time, full-time, and student workers this month. Ronald Reagan Hospital valet workers were previously contracted through ABM Inc., a facilities management provider. In 2016, workers notified the UC that ABM was failing to pay them appropriately. Under the UC’s Fair Wage Fair Work plan, all employees working at least 20 hours a week, including contract workers, are entitled to a $15 minimum wage. But after pay issues were resolved in July, UCLA announced it would end its contract with ABM and replace all current staff with in-house workers.
The ASUCSD Office of External Affairs organized the action, held in Price Center, along with the American Federation of State, County, Municipal Employees (AFSCME) 3299, the UC’s largest union, bringing students from across the UC undergraduate campuses to stage a protest and action similar to the one held at the May UC Regents meeting in San Francisco.
Several protesters said they believe the layoffs and the replacement of the 84 positions with part-time and student workers are to avoid paying higher wages and benefits, since many of the new positions may not be covered by the Fair Wage Fair Work policy. The protesters demanded that the formerly contracted valet workers be hired as full-time in-house workers.
Although the change will create student worker positions, Refilwe Gqajela, Vice President of External Affairs at ASUCSD, emphasized her belief in the importance of solidarity between students and workers.
“The question was asked: Is this not a conflict of interest? Don’t we want student jobs?,” Gqajela said. “But the students are [going to be] paid less than the valet workers… We should be fighting for livable wages for everyone.”
In an op-ed to the Daily Bruin, UCLA administrative Vice Chancellor Michael Beck said that the changes in valet services at Ronald Reagan Hospital are designed to improve efficiency and quality while saving student and taxpayer dollars. Yismaw Teshome, a former valet worker, disagrees. Teshome believes that the replacement of most of the full-time staff with part-time and students workers has resulted in understaffing and 30-minute wait times.
“I am worrying too much that I am going to lose my job,” said Teshome. “How do I save for my daughter? I have no job for when she asks me for something… that makes me worry… that’s the important thing.”
AFSCME Local 3299 believes that is inappropriate for UC President Janet Napolitano to publicly embrace immigrants while exploiting immigrant laborers.
“President Napolitano is trying to paint this picture of herself as a champion for the immigrant,” said AFSCME Local 3299 communications director John DeLos Angeles. “But at the same time, she is condemning immigrant laborers to a life of second-class status by forcing them to work for poverty wages.”
Beck says that the formerly contracted workers have not been laid off and will be reassigned to other contracts by ABM. He added that contracted valet workers are encouraged to apply to the 36 new in-house career valet positions that start in September.