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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Student Union passed pay parity resolution

Published: April 1, 2005
Section: News

This week the Student Union Senate passed a resolution calling on Brandeis to equalize pay between directly employed and subcontracted Brandeis workers. The Parity Resolution cites the Universitys commitment to social justice as reason to, work through the collective bargaining process to correct the disparity in compensation between direct employees of the University and employees of outside contractors.

The Student Union passed the resolution largely due to the efforts of the Brandeis Labor Coalition (BLC). BLC, which is not a chartered student organization, campaigns on behalf of both directly employed and subcontracted workers. Their current goal is for subcontracted workers from companies such as Hurley of America, to receive pay and benefits equal to those directly employed through Brandeis University. Their website states that they aim to permanently institutionalize fair and just labor practices at Brandeis University.
The base wage of custodians directly employed by Brandeis is $14.20 per hour with up to 12 sick days. Base wage for subcontracted custodians is $11.35 per hour and they are permitted to take one sick day.

According to Vice President of University Services Mark Collins, the use of Hurley workers is through an agreement with the employees, who did not want to work on the third, late-night shift.

In some buildings on campus it is simply more productive to do work at night, said Collins. The union workers did not want to go to the night shift, which is understandable;

we all have lives. We outsourced with the internal unions blessing, Collins told The Hoot.

Presently, both directly employed custodians and those subcontracted from Hurley are under the same union, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). Hurley is part of a group of 95 contractors that use a standard SEIU contract, according to Collins.

The BLC has not met Hurley of America directly, but does regularly meet with union representatives. Pesha Black 07, a member of the BLC, explained that, the university has the power to change things;

Hurley is just filling the contract.

Collins stated that Brandeis has a history of dedication to social justice. He told the Hoot that Brandeis has already achieved in-house parity. Prior to 2002, University custodians worked under a dual wage system: those employed prior to 1999 earned more than their more recently hired counterparts. In 2002 this pay disparity was abolished, and over the course of three years workers hired after 1999 received an almost 50 percent pay increase.

We are committed to the people who are here, Collins emphasized. We share the concerns and goals of the Labor Coalition. The University is a strong supporter of social justice.

The Brandeis administration is currently focusing on negotiating with the SEIU. Collins described a provision in the current union contract allowing the Union to submit proposals to recapture outside work, i.e. making subcontracted custodians direct Brandeis employees.

Brandeis requires all candidates for direct employment to pass an interview conducted in English;

many of the Hurley personnel may not necessarily meet these standards.

Collins said that the University was committeed to working through the collective bargaining process.

We are anxiously awaiting the Unions response to our solicitation, he said. The University is prepared to have a candid, frank, and successful negotiation with the Union.

Approximately twenty Hurley workers work the third shift. Collins explained that the opportunity to recapture work has been available since 1999.

They havent approached us about this topic, he said.

The cost of achieving parity in subcontracted work is unclear, as is where the funding would come from out of Brandeis budget.

The Parity Resolution was tabled twice before the Union Senate brought it to a vote. East Quad Senator Nick Freeman 07 explained that tabling is a process giving senators an opportunity to ask questions and research propositions and is done to make sure that we dont make a rushed decision on anything.

This was a really awesome effort on the part of the entire Senate to figure out what would be best for the school as a whole, Freeman told the Hoot. He views the tough scrutiny under which the Resolution was considered as proof that there is a, desire and dedication to make improvements in the way the student government works and change the perception of the Student Union.

Aviva Gerber 07, a member of the BLC, disagreed. Gerber had hoped for unanimous Senate support and said that by their hesitation the Senators, didnt represent their constituents. Gerber presented several hundred petition letters signed by students asking their senators to support the Resolution.

Senator for the Class of 2005 Judith Lupatkin 05 had a different view. The lone vote against the resolution, Lupatkin explained that, I spoke to a lot of my constituents, and they werent as supportive of the Parity Resolution after they heard both sides. When she asked them about the petition letters they signed, according to Lupatkin, many replied, I just wanted a free lollipop.

Lupatkin said she worried that raising the amount of money paid to Hurley could resulit in increased tuition. According to Lupatkin the BLC cavalierly dismissed the impact of a potential increase. She vigorously objected, saying that this could be a slippery slope.