No harassment! No discrimination! Demand students working for California University

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University of California Student Workers Union members marching last week to the pay talks
University of California Student Workers Union members marching last week to the pay talks

STUDENT workers from the University of California demanded the UC implement new anti-discrimination and harassment provisions at a union contract negotiation session last Thursday.

UAW Local 2865, the UC student-workers union, called for the UC to create procedures that value and protect survivors of sexual assault, as well as extend paid maternity and paternity leave from six weeks to six months. It also asked the UC not to levy certain fees such as nonresident supplemental tuition and campus fees on student workers. The union also proposed the UC strengthen protections against retaliation for reporting discrimination and harassment, be more transparent in how it handles discrimination and sexual violence, and install more all-gender restrooms and lactation facilities.

The two-day bargaining session last Thursday and Friday drew many student workers and their supporters among other UC unions, faculty and students to rally on campus. Jonathan Koch, a member of the UC student-worker union’s bargaining team, said the UC has not been very forthcoming in compromising and coming to a settlement regarding wages in the previous three bargaining sessions.

In addition, Koch said the University has failed to deliver on previous promises about when it is going to give wage proposals to student workers, and told the union last Thursday it would not give wage proposals until the union gave its wage proposals first. The union has been in negotiations with the UC since February for the terms of their new contract, which will follow their current contract, which expires on June 30. The UC previously said it would have a wage proposal prepared for the union by the second bargaining session in March, but announced last Thursday they would not make their proposal until UAW Local 2865 provided one.

However, UAW Local 2865 wants to focus on its noneconomic proposals first, said Garrett Strain, co-chair of the UAW Local 2865 bargaining team. UC spokesperson Stephanie Beechem said in a statement that the University is working toward negotiating a fair agreement as quickly as possible. ‘Our goal is to reach a multiyear agreement that recognises the significant contributions academic student employees make to the UC with competitive pay, family-friendly benefits, a safe workplace and good working conditions,’ she said.

KT Bender, a member of the union and a graduate student in the department of geography, said many students are concerned that UCLA is raising rent for graduate student housing and thinks the university should base rent on student income. ‘The university increases our rent every year, but not our wages,’ she said.

Mariko Takano, a member of the union and a graduate student in the department of Asian languages and cultures, said she is concerned that the nonresidential tuition fees negatively affect international students in the UC system. ‘My department is short on (teaching assistants), and there are a lot of international students who could do it but can’t stay,’ she said. ‘I need to graduate soon because there’s no way to cover my fees beyond next year.’

Davide Carpano, a member of the union’s bargaining team and a graduate student of sociology and science studies at UC San Diego, said he and many of his peers feel burdened by San Diego’s high rent. ‘I want to be a part of an intellectual community, so every time there is a student worker who is unable to finish their degree, it affects this community and the quality of work they do,’ he said.

David Chavez, another member of the bargaining team, said he thinks the working conditions of UC employees affect students’ learning conditions. ‘Some of our colleagues are responsible for 200 students, and if the UC wants to be a top-tier institution, we have to have a well-paid and respected workforce,’ he said.

• Workers at Mission Foods in Mountain Top, Pennsylvania have voted to approve a 3-year collective bargaining agreement and officially join United Food & Commercial Workers, Local 1776 following union organising efforts dating back to 2006.

In 2017, the workers in Pennsylvania were fighting for a first collective bargaining agreement. Management fought workers’ efforts by hiring union avoidance consultants, harassing union activists and holding non-productive collective bargaining negotiations. ‘The goal is to better the lives of working people throughout (the United States). The Mission Foods workers are a great example of what standing together and fighting for a voice can achieve. These workers are an inspiration and will motivate others to speak out and fight for better wages, working conditions, and respect,’ said Local 1776 Union President Wendell Young, IV.

This effort was supported by IUF affiliates and their members including AMWU Mission Foods workers in Australia who expressed their unanimous support to their sisters and brothers across the globe in the United States.

• Dozens of companies have given employees one-time bonuses on account of the tax cuts President Trump signed into law last year.

But not Automatic Data Processing (ADP), the payroll and human resources company. In fact, ADP’s CEO recently told employees that investors, not workers, will see most of the benefits of tax cuts.

At an internal town hall meeting on March 15, ADP CEO Carlos Rodriguez fielded an employee question on what the company planned to do with the savings from corporate tax cuts. Rodriguez alluded to other companies that have given bonuses to employees, but said that’s not what ADP had in mind. ‘You should expect that most of that benefit that we got as a result of tax reform, I think flows through to our investors,’ Rodriguez told employees watching nationwide on a company feed. ‘I recognise that’s not a popular answer and not everybody’s going to like that answer, but I think that is really kind of where ADP is today.’ Yahoo Finance obtained a recording of Rodriguez’s comments.

On April 11, ADP raised its dividend by 10%, increasing returns to shareholders. Rodriguez, the CEO, owns about 125,000 shares of company stock, worth nearly $15 million, according to S&P Capital IQ. At least 10 other company officials own more than 25,000 shares in the company, so they are among the investors who will benefit if the stock price rises. Of course, it’s typical for CEOs to own shares in the companies they lead, and Rodriguez’s stake is not unusually large.

Critics of the Trump tax cuts have argued that slashing the corporate rate from 35% to 21% will boost profits and stock prices, benefiting the investor class—but do little to help ordinary workers. Rodriguez’s surprisingly candid remarks provide one example of a company that seems to be doing just that.

In a statement emailed to Yahoo Finance, Rodriguez confirmed that ‘we don’t have any plans for a one-time bonus due to tax reform.’ ADP, he said, prefers a ‘pay for performance approach that directly links bonuses and merit increases to our performance, not one-time events. We are still considering other initiatives for associates.’ The recent dividend increase ‘is consistent with our proud 43-year track record of annual dividend increases,’ Rodriquez said, while reiterating that the company anticipates another dividend increase in November. And he pointed out that ADP has earned plaudits as a top workplace from LinkedIn and Fortune.

Still, the company has faced pressure recently from activist investor Bill Ackman, whose firm Pershing Square Capital Management has a 7.2% stake in the company. At a hedge-fund conference on April 17, Ackman said: ‘ADP is one of the biggest beneficiaries of tax reform of any US corporation.’ That’s because ADP operates mostly in the United States, leaving more revenue subject to lower tax rates than other large companies.

Last October, Ackman told Yahoo Finance’s Julia LaRoche that ADP is ‘one of the least efficient big companies,’ while calling for moves to streamline and modernise the firm. He lost a proxy fight last year to install himself and two allies on the company’s board, but is still calling for reforms. At the April 17 conference, Ackman suggested tax cuts and other factors could push ADP’s net income more than 20% above the company’s current guidance by 2020.

‘While we won the proxy contest,’ Rodriguez said in his statement to Yahoo Finance, ‘we continue to work hard on executing our strategy and we give strong consideration to all the feedback we receive from investors regarding our business and board. With respect to Mr. Ackman, we maintain an open dialogue and will continue to do so.’