The Vanguard has a new home, please update your bookmarks to

Friday, February 08, 2008

UC Davis Faculty Report Blasts UC Davis for Low Wages and Lack of Benefits for Workers

Yesterday a press conference was held by a newly formed faculty group to demand UC status for UC Davis Foodservice workers after the completion of a lengthy report on the conditions of food service workers at UC Davis as a result of the university's practice of outsourcing their work to Sodexho.

Joining the the faculty group were Sodexho and also Direct UC Davis workers, West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon, Community Activists, ASUCD Senator Albert Parnell.

The Progressive Faculty Group at University of California Davis (PFG) released a report entitled yesterday "From the Shadows: How the University of California, Davis Contracting-Out Fosters Workers Poverty" criticizing university administrations' practice of contracting-out food services.
"Most of these Sodexho workers are people of Color with the breakdown being, 39 percent Latina and Latino, 16 percent African American or black, 8 percent Asian or Pacific Islanders. As a result of this institutional relationship between the university and Sodexho, the mostly minority workers belong to a subclass within the UCD community receiving far worse wages and benefits and having worse working conditions than those workers in the same jobs as those workers directly employed by UC across the university system. And UC Davis is the only UC that does not directly employ their food service workers."
According to the report the impact of the university contracting out its labor is multifold. First it leaves employees vulnerable:
"Sodexho’s drive to maximize profit margins has significant impact on the working conditions of contracted-out UCD workers. While UCD workers have union representation these workers are at-will employees and vulnerable to Sodexho’s whims when it comes to changing wages, benefits and working conditions."
As Fred Block, Professor of Sociology in his comments yesterday at the press conference argued:
"It's not just the pay and benefits that makes this a violation of the principles of community, it's the fact that these employees, have no protection against arbitrary management decisions. They are at-will employees, they can be fired for no particular reason. They deserve the same protections that university employees have."
Contracting out also has a severe and negative impact on wages:
"Even with recent changes in wages and health care benefits for contracted-out workers, their compensation is far below that of comparable workers at other UC campuses. Until recently a contracted-out Cook III earned only $10.85 starting wage, which is 36% less than a UCD Medical Center Cook doing the same work. Despite the fact that UCD administration and Sodexho succumbed to worker and community pressure to improve contracted-out worker wages, their wages continue to be 5 to 9% below those of workers doing the same work at the UCD Medical Center in Sacramento."
Furthermore the report shows the relationship between wages for Sodexho workers and the cost of living, what it would take to be able to live on a salary:

"It takes a full time hourly income of $22.03 to support a single parent family in the Sacramento Region, which is 103% more than a contracted-out UCD Food Service worker makes."

West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon spoke to this issue during the press conference and its impact on this region:
"There's hard data that proves the case and the impact of the University's employment relationship, wage structure focusing on this campus, for this community living in poverty. I'm here because where are these folks living. Where are the workers who are employed by Sodexho but really working for the university living their daily lives? Many of them are residents of my community, West Sacramento, because it's a more affordable place. And the impacts of poverty, university inspired poverty, on people and families affects the town in which I live in.

I see this every day, folks who have inadequate health care, who don't have the wages in order to make basic needs for their families. So it's not just a question of what happens on the campus but the impacts on neighborhoods and communities throughout this area."
Health care and the affordability of health coverage is devastating to Sodexho workers.
"As the cost of health care has skyrocketed, affordable benefits are essential for workers to maintain a healthy standard of living. The lack of affordable benefits for contracted-out workers in conjunction with their poverty wages has exacerbated the already dire circumstances workers’ families live with daily. Until the first of this year, health care benefits provided to contracted-out UCD workers were 95% more expensive than the benefits directly employed UC workers receive. As UCD administrators and Sodexho were compelled to make changes to contracted-out workers wages, they were also compelled to make recent changes in their health care benefits. Unfortunately the changes have been inadequate to meet the basic needs of
working families - too little too late."
As the faculty group finds, even with the additional stipend of $100, the cost for family coverage is 41 percent greater for Sodexho workers than UC employees and thus remains out of reach for many contracted-out workers.

As the Progressive Faculty group wrote in their press release:
"We heard stories from workers in dire situations such as Esther Juarez who needed emergency medical treatment in a life and death situation and is now strapped with tens of thousands of dollars of medical debt due to lack of health care coverage."
ASUCD Senator Albert Parnell came to show support for the Sodexho workers not just for himself but on behalf of other ASUCD Senators.

"There's been resolutions in the past that ASUCD brought up that show the support and that show that we're hear in solidarity for these workers so that they can live a comfortable life... So they should not have to worry about whether they should choose to pay for the medications or have to put food on the table for their families and themselves. $11 per hour is not a lot of money. It's nowhere near living comfortable and being able to survive. It's nowhere near being able to know that if you ever get injured, or if your health is even in jeopardy, that you can go to the hospital and not have to worry about co-payments that are going to jeopardize whether you are going to be able to put food on the table for your family or your kids or whether you are going to put your health in jeopardy."
Speaking yesterday as well was Joe Moreno. As we mentioned last week, Joe came to meet President Bill Clinton and then suffered a serious incident with his heart because he could not afford to pay for his heart medications. He is just out from the hospital but his condition remains precarious. He told me that his heart no longer beats normally. He has about 15 percent of capacity. He will be on medication the rest of his life and he's not even sure he will be able to resume his full work.

He told the crowd of supporters:
“I am a contracted out Cook at UCD and I have been with Sodexho for 2 years. I have a heart condition, which requires me to take 5 different medications. The problem is that because of the low wages and the expensive medical insurance, I have been uninsured; the medications would cost me $400 a month, which I just can’t afford. I used to be on medical public assistance, but then I got cut off of that by the state about a year and a half ago. Now I save up the medication that I do have and only take them when it gets really bad. Lately I feel like all my strength is gone, and I get weak easily and have shortness of breath which makes it hard for me to walk. I’m hoping to be able to get medical insurance this year.”
The worst part for him is affording the co-pay. And sadly none of this would have occurred had Sodexho offered better health care last year. For the rest of his life, he will live with this fact. Joe is not alone as we have described numerous workers who have suffered greatly from lack of affordable health care. This day and age, health care cannot be a luxury, it is a necessity. And those who do not have it will have a greatly diminished life span and a greatly diminished quality of life. The worst part to me is that the people making these decision are not only public employees but they are living in great comfort receiving compensation of well over $100,000 and in many cases over twice that. We are not talking about a tremendous among of workers, it seems that it would only be right for them to get decent and affordable health coverage. How difficult would it be to have them able to attend the university health center and receiver adequate care and treatment?

Community member Lourdes spoke representing the Gospel Justice Group of St. James Catholic Church:
"I'm standing here for Esther, for Lidya, and for Joe - three UC Davis campus food service workers who I know. I believe that the ability to work to earn a living is a right of all people. All workers have the right to a fair wage, to organize themselves, and to work in good conditions. This is NOT happening on campus for the SODEXHO Food Service Workers!"
For these reasons, the fight will go on and the report as released is very critical of university practices. How much longer will this community allow this university to continue to operate as it has?
---Doug Paul Davis reporting