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Saturday, May 26, 2007

Saylor Tries to Have It Both Ways on Sodexho Struggle

As I opened the press packet from the May 23, 2007 Protest in support of the UC Davis Food Service workers, I was surprised to see a letter to Chancellor Vanderhoef from Davis City Councilmember Don Saylor in support of the Sodexho Workers.

After all, Councilmember Saylor has at best a mixed record on labor issues. When Don Saylor first ran for the Davis Joint Unified School Board in 1995, he was endorsed by the Davis Teacher's Association. However, four years later he did not receive their endorsement. During the course of his first term on the board, the union often found him unreliable. He even was the only member to vote against their contract on one occasion.

As a member of the Davis City Council, Saylor came out last year against a living wage ordinance. Back in August, then newly elected Councilmember Lamar Heystek tried to get a living wage ordinance put on the agenda. Saylor at that time led the way to prevent such an ordinance. By a 3-2 vote, the council prevented that item from being placed on the agenda as a regular agenda item. However, Councilmember Heystek brought it back in late September as an item prepared by a member of the council.

During the debate on this item, Saylor attacked Mr. Heystek's motivations for this item even though he and his colleagues had encouraged Heystek to do so.

Saylor criticized him by saying:
“To bring it up as a discussion is appropriate. To bring it up as a full-blown ordinance for a first reading, that’s not talking about policy, that’s talking about politics in a lead-up to an election.”
Thus given Councilmember Saylor's history on labor issues it was surprising to see his letter in the protester's packet. However, a thorough reading of the letter shows it to be mixed support at best.

Saylor writes to Chancellor Larry Vanderhoef,
"I rarely weigh in on internal matters of campus operations and recognize that there are many aspects to operational issues of this sort... However, I am personally very sympathetic to the concerns of these employees and their families. I know many other Davis community members share that view. I believe it is in the best interest of the campus to resolve this issue in a collaborative manner in the near term, rather than face a protracted dispute."
From the language here you can see that while on the one hand he recognizes that this is an internal matter that has many aspects to it--which is a typical statement by Saylor, he has sympathy for the concerns and he urges a resolution, notice he did not urge the chancellor to accede to the demands of the workers and grant them university status.

He only goes as far as to suggest discussions.

Later in the letter he comes back to this point:
"Again, I am not privy to the array of factors you must consider in weighing this issue."
This is the point he often makes to those who question his motivations and decisions, the public is simply unaware of the intricate deals of such arrangements. Thus he is granting deference to the Chancellor but in so doing he is giving the Chancellor a clear out. The Chancellor could simply say, you are right, you do not know the details and if you did, you would take my position.

Once again, Saylor will only go as far as to urge talks--not demand action.
"Nevertheless, I urge you to meet personally with the workers and their chosen representatives as soon as possible to discuss their proposal that UC Davis alter its relationship with Sodexho and hire the same, dedicated workers directly."
Clearly, Saylor is trying to play both sides in this dispute as he so often does. He grants sufficient deference to the Chancellor, he has a considerably nuanced position, and he only goes so far as to urge talks but not recommend action.

Compare this letter to the April 10, 2007 letter from Councilmember Heystek to Chancellor Vanderhoef.
"I was alarmed when I heard UC Davis contracts out over 500 service workers..."
"Approximately 550 contracted-out workers employed by Sodexho and custodial contractors are organizing with student supports and AFSCME in hopes of becoming UC Davis employees. I support this effort out of a concern for the well-being of the UC Davis community."
He goes on to say:
"Having been a member of three labor unions, two as a University employee and one as a shop steward in the grocery industry, I believe that UC Davis should make responsible employment decisions and adopt policy based on social justice and economic equality... The right to affordable health care, decent wages and, most importantly, equitable treatment of employees doing similar work are values the University should uphold. Furthermore, the money currently used to pay Sodexho should stay within the university community."
Given the language that Councilmember Heystek uses compared with that of Councilmember Saylor, which councilmember really believes in social justice and economic equality and which one is going through the motions and trying to have it both ways?

---Doug Paul Davis reporting