SF State plans to shift control of the Cesar Chavez Student Center from an independent organization to the university’s corporate entity UCorp starting on June 30, a move that may threaten the employment of 125 student center employees, according to a union representative.
According to Donna Olivera, a member of the Coalition to Stop Synergy (CSS), an anti-privatization student group, the university will end the union contract with the Western Conference Teamsters 856, which the building’s custodians have been working under for the past seven years.
CSS is accusing the university of union busting tactics, and said the effort to privatize the Student Center is violating the labor rights of custodial workers in the building.
“We want transparency from the university, extension on the lease, and whatever the custodial workers want,” said Patricia Martinez, a member of CSS, at a May 1 rally. “We don’t want people to lose their livelihoods.”
Jason Porth, the Executive Director of UCorp said that accusations of union busting and other unethical practices by his company are false, blaming the upset on misinformation.
“There’s no interest in privatizing anything,” said Porth. “UCorp’s role in this is as a partner.”
Porth also said that he met with CSS for over an hour on April 17 to discuss the terms of the deal.
Student Center custodians were given pink slips the week of April 21, according to Martinez. The university plans to offer the workers their old jobs back under a new contract with the university’s union after the current lease has ended. According to Olivera, the custodians will lose their seniority, including some who have been working for the Student Center for over 30 years.
“We received an appointment letter in which we were offered to keep our current salaries in the transition, yet we were informed that we would lose all seniority, vacation hours, and sick leave which we have accumulated based on our years of service,” said a representative from the Student Center Operations Department in a letter May 1.
According to Peter Koo, the Executive Director of ASI, merging the Student Center with UCorp will result in better services and a more efficient use of student fees. In the past, many functions were done by departments from both ASI and the Student Center. If the merger goes through, everything will be done by one central organization, said Koo.
Student representative Celia Gonzalez feels that some of the university’s motivations are potentially positive, such as saving students’ money. However, she said the university behaved unethically by not cooperating with the custodians’ union or with students.
Gonzalez also said she was frustrated that ASI’s student representatives did not know about the merger from the beginning, since the university has been planning the merger for 13 months and only told ASI about its plans in October 2013, as previously reported by Xpress. ASI did not get a copy of the merger agreement until May 7, according to Gonzalez.
“We have about a month to discuss all this stuff,” said Gonzalez at an ASI meeting May 7. “If they’ve been talking about this for two years, why did it take until today to get this document?”
ASI will have a meeting to discuss whether they approve of the conditions of the merger at the beginning of June, and will need to make their final decision by June 30, said Gonzalez. If all parties cannot agree on the conditions, 125 custodians could potentially lose their jobs, according to the union representing the workers.
“If the university makes a job offer, they have to take the jobs or they don’t have jobs,” said Gonzalez. “It’s not respectful and honorable to the hard work they’ve done.”
Porth said that rumors of layoffs are false.
“Everyone who’s employed with the Student Center or with ASI will still have a position,” Porth said. “There will be a place for everyone.”