USC custodians march for fair wages and benefits

More than 100 USC custodians, students and professors marched along Trousdale Parkway and into USC Village Monday afternoon to protest for better wages and benefits from USC subcontractor Aramark.

Yamilet Rustrian, the daughter of a USC custodian, led the crowd in chants as they marched to USC Village. Tomás Mier | Daily Trojan

The custodians’ union, Service Employees International Union, has been working negotiations with Aramark to settle a contract by the current deal’s end on Thursday.

With a bullhorn in hand, Yamilet Rustrian, the daughter of a USC custodian, led chants at the protest in both English and Spanish, encouraging those who marched.

“[My mom] deserves these human rights and fair wages and deserves to be treated as a human,” Rustrian said. “We’ll keep fighting for people like my mother who are just seen as people who will take little pieces of the cake. We’re here to fight for the whole cake.”

Rustrian said that custodians have not been treated fairly by USC subcontractors. According to a 2015 Daily Trojan article, USC has used independent contractors like Aramark for janitorial services for more than 20 years.

“Unfortunately, we feel now that [the contract] is getting stuck,” said Cesar Quiles-Borrero, lead organizer for SEIU – United Service Workers West.  “We are asking the company to lower the healthcare contribution for the members and also to get people outside of the minimum wage area.”

Quiles-Borrero said with the increase in minimum wage in Los Angeles, Aramark believes the wage will be sufficient for workers, but this is not true.

He also said that it was unfair that Eric Foss, the current president and CEO of Aramark, made approximately $7,847 per hour in 2017, according to a brochure distributed at the protest.

Many of those who rallied carried signs demanding fair treatment from both Aramark and the University.

“The University has the power to tell Aramark what to do with the workers,” Quiles-Borrero said. “We want them to be treated as a part of the Trojan family. We ask them to talk to Aramark and make sure that these workers are treated correctly.”

In response to the rally, USC said it did not have a comment  since “they aren’t involved in the negotiations.”

Rustrian said the fight for fair wages will not end today.

“If by Thursday we don’t receive any agreement, we will be escalating our action,” she said.

Aramark did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Tomás Mier contributed to this report.