USC Janitors Protest For Better Benefits
The workers, hired through managed services contractor Aramark, assembled at Tommy Trojan at 12:30pm and marched through campus with signs and chants of “Si! Se Puede.”
“We expect to get more in this contract negotiation because the price of living is getting higher and we can’t afford everything anymore,” said 36-year USC employee Jose Jobel, “We know that we have the contract with Aramark but if USC can give them more money, maybe we can get a better deal.”
Students also came to show their support by marching and conversing with the janitors.
“They are always underappreciated, undervalued and we should do our part to make sure they get treated fairly,” said USC sophomore Isabelle Bravo. “USC has more than enough money to give workers what they deserve when we get so much money for sports and through grants.”
Union members and USC officials will meet Friday night to decide a healthcare plan and salary for USC’s Aramark-staffed janitors. Negotiations of the new three-year contract began in late June when Aramark first proposed a change from Kaiser Permanenate to an in-house healthcare provider.Union negotiators say the new provider would cost more than 15% percent more but workers would struggle more to find affordable insurance.
“The issue is economic which is difficult to win against a large entity,” said 6-year Janitors for Justice organizer Raphael Lee, “Right now with Kaiser coverage through Aramark, there would be a co-pay but it would be more manageable than what Aramark is proposing now, “ said Lee.
Representatives of the Janitors for Justice, an affiliate of the Service Employees International Union, polled USC janitors for their opinion on the Aramark proposed plan, but nearly 80% preferred the Kaiser healthcare plan because of affordability, according to SEIU officials. Current employees were pleased with the previously negotiated healthcare plan through Kaiser Permanenate and believe that it is most affordable with their wages.
“On this we are dealing with is the cost of healthcare. The cost has skyrocketed. Not only hear but around the country,” said Lee.
The USC janitors' contract battle marks the second SEIU negotiation this month.
In Houston, 3,200 janitors received a $0.25 salary increase and maintain their current healthcare plan although family members are not covered.
If the demands of the workers are not met, they will continue to work at USC without a contract until they get what the demand, according to SEIU representatives and workers.
“I don’t want to go anywhere else,” said Jobel “I am apart of the Trojan family too, but we deserve a fair contract.”
Reach Contributor Jerome Campbell here.