Workers deserve justice

The issue of labor exploitation has been on my mind lately — for some reason, everywhere I look, the struggles of employees are flashing before me, and I cannot help but bring attention to these issues.

In Seattle, on Nov. 7, 60 farm workers were bussed to Stemilt Grower’s Apple Orchard, the nation’s largest supplier of cherries and tree fruits. After getting off the bus they were told they’d be making $25 for five hours worth of labor. When the workers refused to work, they were stranded.

But these issues seem so distant and abstract. They don’t affect us, right?

The reality is, infringement of workers rights is happening on the University Park  campus. Employees are losing hours and health care benefits.

The USC Student Coalition Against Labor Exploitation, which works to create a socially responsible university and monitor labor exploitation on campus, will host a worker meet and greet on Thursday in the University Religious Center fishbowl from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. so students can hear directly from the employees.

According to SCALE’s Facebook event, “[USC’s] attempts at resolving worker issues and sharing their grievances with administration have been largely ignored.”

The Keck strikes took the lime light for a while at the University Park and Health Science campuses.

Workers at Keck School of Medicine strikers expressed grievances because they were losing retirement benefits.

They were also striking against  ongoing contract negotiations and inadequate input in matters regarding staffing and delivery of goods.

Because the workers are represented by the National Union of Healthcare Workers, their concerns were facilitated into a 24-hour strike. Perhaps USC isn’t as wholesome as it is seems to be.

This week, another labor issue at the University Park campus has arisen.

According to SCALE, employees at the on-campus food places we love — Parkside Restaurant, Seeds Marketplace and Trojan Grounds — have been losing working hours and health care benefits.

The university needs to be more transparent about labor issues. USC should intervene in the SCALE meeting on Thursday, and provide their perspective and justification of why benefits are being taken away from employees. I am shocked at the lack of intervention on behalf of the administration.

As a student body, we deserve to know why employees’ hours are being cut, and why on earth health care benefits are being sacrificed.

The discussion of prominent labor issues on campus should be university-wide. USC so often strives to stress this “Trojan Family” yet their actions prove otherwise by not providing explanations for their treatment against the employees.

If it weren’t for SCALE, it’s doubtful the employees from on-campus food venues would have other means in which to address their issues and frustration with USC.

There were only minimal updates about the USC Keck School of Medicine strike from the university.

Moreover, if it weren’t for word of mouth, I wouldn’t have known there were more labor issues on the University Park Campus.

We interact with these employees daily — if the university doesn’t maintain transparency, then it is saying as an entity, this institution does not see labor issues as one of importance.

The employees here deserve to have direct responses from administration about their concerns.

Perhaps it is time for USC to reevaluate the principles behind this so-called “family,” and maintain the utmost transparency in issues of such importance


Mellissa Linton is a sophomore majoring in English. 

5 replies
  1. Michelle O'Brien
    Michelle O'Brien says:

    At a time when the nation’s economy is softening, and perhaps worse, many organizations are considering layoffs as a way to cut costs. But eliminating jobs does not always result in immediate cost-savings. There are often severance packages to finance and unemployment benefits to cover. In addition, the morale of the employees left behind always suffers.

  2. Julia
    Julia says:

    Thanks so much for writing this article. I’ve had several workers talk about how they’re glad to see there’s student support surrounding these issues. I think what it comes down to is treating these workers like human beings, and giving them the respect that they deserve. By their contract, hospitality workers are guaranteed 32 hours of work a week, but many are nowhere near this number. People can’t survive on the few number of hours they’re given. Many food venues are severely understaffed. In many places, people are being worked so hard that they’re being injured because they’re running from place to place while carrying heavy trays and whatnot. Yes, Curt, this is all about the money. USC is cutting back on everything, from worker hours, to health benefits, to the quality of food and the safety of the food that’s being served in the dining halls. Managers are making workers bring out poisonous cleaning supplies, which they’re not legally allowed to use because they’re not trained to do so, while food is still being prepared despite possible contamination, in order to speed up the closing process. I can’t imagine that USC “needs” this money badly enough to risk the health of its students.

    • Clickit
      Clickit says:

      You are babbling nonsense, Julia. You are talking about people who have jobs, are working, and are getting paid for exactly what they do. Food service is not supposed to be a lifelong career unless you are a master chef or sommelier or something like that. Carrying trays and hurrying are both part of the job. And “poisonous cleaning supplies?” Yeah, most of the cans of stuff under your sink are poisonous. But you don’t need training on how to use Windex. As for their hours, it’s an unfortunate reality that the university has to cut back. It has happened all over the university. Everyone has dealt with it and so will the folks from Hospitality.

  3. Curt
    Curt says:

    Maybe the Administration does not think labor relations should be put up for a vote to the students. I must say, I agree with them.

    The university is not obligated to provide retirement benefits for every single worker they employ–this would be financial suicide. Take a look at the way the governement runs things where employess can retire with 90% of their full pay, after 25 or so years of working. Boy, where’s that money coming from? It isn’t -we don’t have it .

    Above all, USC must act responsibly in order to protect and to expand the interests of the university, its students, and it’s community–and from my perspective they are quite generous.

  4. zman
    zman says:

    This is what happens when the country is running gigantic deficits and is printing money to pay for all of the spending and debasing the currency which makes it more expensive to employ people and this is the inevitable result. This is what happens when you don’t want to cut anything. They should cut military spending and all the corporate subsidies and so on, they dont have to touch anything that people really depend on like SS and Medicare.

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