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Stanford Report, April 30, 2003

Living wage policy guidelines for subcontract workers finalized

BY BARBARA PALMER

Guidelines for a living wage policy for subcontracted employees who work on the university campus have been finalized, President John Hennessy has announced. The guidelines, which set a living wage at a minimum of $10.10 per hour if health benefits are provided and a minimum of $11.35 if no health benefits are provided, and 10 paid days off per year for eligible employees, will apply to future contracts and renewals or extensions of existing contracts.

The guidelines were finalized after the university spent the past year receiving input from students and faculty, among others. "Students met with President Hennessy as well as with members of his senior staff," said Gordon Earle, vice president for public affairs. "In addition, we asked for and received feedback from the faculty and student senates and participated in a number of public forums."

The guidelines will apply to contractors whose nonunion employees provide basic services such as maintenance, groundskeeping, housing and food services that might otherwise be performed by hourly employees hired directly by Stanford. They do not apply to workers represented by a collective bargaining unit or employees at Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, Stanford Hospital and Clinics, or Lucile Packard Children's Hospital.

"The guidelines apply specifically to nonunion workers, in part, because these workers don't have official representation that is provided by the collective bargaining process," said Chris Christofferson, associate vice provost for facilities. Stanford already has a living wage policy for union and nonunion workers directly employed by the university, he said. "While the guidelines still leave some issues for employees and employers to work out, the policy is important because it provides an economic safety net for those who are most in need."

Stanford should not dictate a broad range of employment policies to contractors, Christofferson said. "We do believe, however, in establishing guidelines that positively impact the quality of workers' lives." If contractors don't follow the guidelines, "we can decide not to hire the contractor -- or to fire them if they fail to comply with our wage and benefit minimums." Christofferson noted that the guidelines are minimums and are not intended to prevent contractors from providing wages and benefits in excess of those in the policy guidelines.

The guidelines did not include a broader "Code of Conduct" proposed by student groups including the Stanford Labor Action Coalition (SLAC) and the Coalition for Labor Justice. The SLAC proposal includes a moratorium on the subcontracting of work already being performed by workers hired directly by Stanford, a minimum prevailing wage, affordable heath care benefits and worker educational benefits.

SLAC members expressed dissatisfaction with restrictions included in the guidelines, such as the exclusion of temporary and unionized workers.

"Stanford continues to exploit temp workers on campus, many of whom have worked for years at Stanford with no benefits or job security," SLAC coordinators wrote in an official response to the living wage guidelines. "The university has not renounced its practice of subcontracting out formerly directly hired workers, which usually results in sharp drops in workers' wages and benefits."

At a time when the university is facing annual budget deficits, it would be virtually impossible to institute the SLAC-proposed code without making difficult tradeoffs, Christofferson said.

Other living wage provisions include the following:

  • Guidelines apply to regular, nontemporary workers employed under contracts lasting at least a year and valued at more than $100,000 per year.
  • Wage and benefit minimums will be reviewed annually.
  • Contractors must provide evidence that they are in compliance with the guidelines.
  • Contractors are encouraged to fill existing vacancies with qualified employees of previous contractors.
  • Employees have a right to work in a safe environment free from unlawful discrimination and harassment and a right to organize.
  • Subcontracted employees are eligible to participate in Stanford-supported English as a Second Language (ESL) classes.