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by Leonel Sanchez, Union Tribune (Reposted by SD
Sunday, Jun. 17, 2001 at 12:15 AM
The University of California San Diego has agreed to settle a labor dispute with campus janitors, promising them better pay, full-time jobs and medical benefits. The offer came two weeks after the university outraged faculty members and students by bringing the Immigration and Naturalization Service into the conflict.
UCSD agrees to settlement; janitors to join campus payroll
By Leonel Sanchez
June 15, 2001
The University of California San Diego has agreed to settle a labor dispute with campus janitors, promising them better pay, full-time jobs and medical benefits. The offer came two weeks after the university outraged faculty members and students by bringing the Immigration and Naturalization Service into the conflict. The university said yesterday it had conducted an internal investigation and found no immigration violations or any other employment irregularities involving campus janitors. A university spokesman said UCSD considered the INS involvement a "moot issue."
The settlement affects 48 janitors who work for Bergenson's Property Services, a subcontractor the university uses to clean some of its buildings. Bergenson's has been the target of union and student protests over low pay and lack of health benefits for its mostly Latino immigrant work force at the La Jolla campus.
The university said it will not renew Bergenson's contract, which expires this fall. Instead, UCSD will offer Bergenson's janitors full-time jobs as university employees, with the same union contracts the university offers its own janitorial staff. The university said it would be more cost-effective to manage the janitors if they were university employees.
The agreement was reached Wednesday between university officials and representatives from two unions. The agreement ends a four-month campaign by the Service Employees International Union, Local 2028, to unionize Bergenson's janitors. But the 48 janitors affected will be represented by the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, which already has a contract with the university, union officials said.
The American Federation union's contract calls for wages of to an hour, 12 paid holidays, one to three weeks of paid vacation, a pension plan and family health coverage. Many of Bergenson's janitors at UCSD now earn less than an hour, and they don't receive health benefits. Service Employees International Union spokesman Mike Wilzoch said he was happy with the agreement, even though his union won't be representing the Bergenson's janitors.
"Our mission is not to add members but to improve the lives of workers," said Wilzoch, whose union is organizing a celebration this afternoon at UCSD. Wilzoch said the university's decision to call the INS didn't intimidate the union's Latino members. "It helped rally the community around the issue," he said. "I can't say what their intention was but it's clear that (the university) overreacted."
On June 1, shortly before a union-organized rally on campus, the university issued a statement saying it had notified the INS about allegations of immigration violations involving Bergenson's janitors. The university later sent memos to faculty members and students, saying it had acted in good faith and hadn't tried to influence the outcome of the labor dispute between the union and Bergenson's. Faculty members questioned the university's motives. "Even if university representatives believed they were acting in good faith, the involvement of the INS could only create an atmosphere of fear and intimidation for the workers," more than 30 faculty members said in a letter delivered to UCSD Chancellor Robert C. Dynes. "University officials should have realized this."
A spokesman for Bergenson's couldn't be reached yesterday.
Bergenson's janitor Camarina Negrete, who is six months pregnant, says she is looking forward to receiving UCSD's offer of full-time employment. "I was so worried about how I could care for my baby without insurance. Now I know I can get the best care for my child," said the Logan Heights resident who cleans two university buildings. "They're finally going to pay us what we deserve." Negrete, who now earns .80 an hour, said she supported the unionization effort but had never marched for the cause. She intends to join the celebration at UCSD this afternoon.
Copyright 2001 Union-Tribune Publishing Co.
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