USC service workers ratified a new labor contract with their employer, Aramark, on Saturday after months of contract negotiations that concluded Wednesday night. Workers assembled at the Service Workers International Union headquarters to accept the new contract in a unanimous vote.
On Wednesday, a bargaining committee composed of five workers and several SEIU representatives came to an agreement on the terms of the labor contract, which will replace the old contract that expired on June 30. In order to design a new contract, service workers protested Aramark’s attempts to downsize their health care benefits and demanded wage increases and improved working conditions.
Under the new contract, which became effective immediately, workers will receive a $0.50 wage increase across the board, with successive increases raising the total pay boost to $1.65 by July 2017. The contract expires on Dec. 31, 2017, after which time a new contract will again have to be negotiated.
According to Edmundo Garcia, an SEIU representative present at the negotiations, the main wage issue the janitors struggled with was the significant discrepancy between the wages of more and less experienced workers. Though many workers earned around $14.85 per hour — well above the current Los Angeles minimum wage of $9 — there were at least 25 workers earning under $10, which many consider to be below a living wage in Los Angeles.
The contract also addressed other areas of importance to workers, such as allowing increased access to the mediation process and protecting health care benefits, which, according to Garcia, was the workers’ number one priority. Furthermore, negotiators managed to reduce workers’ health care premiums from 8 percent to 7 percent, an important victory that Garcia said workers were “very happy” with.
“This is a really great contract that we were able to put together — it’s a testament to the workers, the bargaining committee and the activism of our janitors at USC,” Garcia said. “We definitely did a lot of actions on campus, and we’re supported by several student organizations, who even [sent] a delegation to Aramark at one point.”