Janitors march for contract negotiations
Hundreds of janitors and union workers gathered in front of Bovard Auditorium and marched down Trousdale Parkway on Thursday afternoon to protest possible changes to their contracts and to make their voices heard as negotiations draw to a close.
USCâs janitors are contracted through an outside company, Aramark. The universityâs current contract with Aramark ends Friday at midnight and workers said current negotiations for the renewed contract include improved health care benefits.
âOur priority is health insurance,â said David Mendoza, an Aramark-contracted employee who has been working on campus for 14 years. âThey need to pay our complete insurance.â
According to Service Employees International Union member Raphael Leib, who led the rally and procession down Trousdale, workers hope the new contract will require a flat co-payment of $10 for most medical visits rather than a percentage of total medical costs. This change would also apply to their families.
âThere are a lot of issues going on that affect us as working people,â Leib said. âPolicies that affect working people affect their families as well.â
Sociology associate professor Veronica Terriquez, who has researched labor rights, said the janitorâs union has been instrumental in helping shape the fight for better working conditions throughout Los Angeles for the past 20 years, but there is a still a struggle for fair rights.
âI hope they get a fair contract and get what they deserve,â Terriquez said. âHealth care is critical for people who do such hard work. Itâs physically demanding and puts them in contact with dangerous chemicals.â
Jose Ramirez, who has been working on campus for 13 years, said the need for improved health care goes beyond just physical medical needs. He wants to see benefits comparable to those of other university employees.
âPeople get in accidents because of psychological pressure on the job,â he said. âWe want to get the best we can for our workers. Weâre trying to get the same coverage for medical, visual and dental insurance.â
Details of the new contract were not available to workers and union members at the time of the protest, but other complaints include consideration of salary and tuition benefits for children of Aramark-contracted janitors who work on-campus.
âWe live check-by-check,â said Salvador Hernandez, who has been working on campus for 21 years. âUSC can afford this program. Why are they going to strangle us [in negotiations]?â
Leib said part of the goal of protesting was to make the USC faculty and students more aware of their grievances.
âWeâre members of the USC community,â he said. âWe deserve the same respect.â
Several students attended the rally to show their support in the new contract negotiations.
âI talked to one of [the workers]. They have to work limited hours and donât get health care,â said sophomore psychology major Mayra Morales. âItâs kind of unfair.â
Junior neuroscience major Samantha Castillo said she is concerned that workers will lose some of the rights and benefits they already have.
âI know they were cutting a lot,â she said. âI donât want them to cut down on anything they already have.â
University administration could not be reached for comment at press time.