USG senators vote on staff contracts, election codes

Miriam Sieger, who has worked as a staff member at USC for over 35 years, gave an emotional testimony regarding her concern over worker treatment. She is comforted by custodian Todd Tyson, who has worked at USC for five years.
(Catharine Liang | Daily Trojan)

Workers represented by UNITE HERE  Local 11, a local union, criticized USC for cutting hours during the holiday season and insufficient pay despite increased costs of living in Los Angeles during the Undergraduate Student Government meeting Tuesday. 

USC Hospitality employee Miriam Sieger, who has worked at the University since 1974, became emotional during her testimony on the struggles of working at USC. 

“I’ve never seen a management like the one we have right now cutting hours around this time of the year,” Sieger said. “I give my whole life, my loyalty to USC.” 

The workers, who are some of the 15,700 staff members at USC, also expressed admiration for the unanimous passage of a resolution on student support of new contract negotiations by the Senate. Korina Torres, who works at Seeds Marketplace, called on student leaders to use their voice to help workers during the negotiation process. 

“Living in L.A. is very expensive; times are very hard,” Torres said. “It’s Christmas next month, and they are cutting our hours. We are just seeking help, we are trying to let people know as to where we are coming from and any help would go a long way.” 

Rene Muñoz, a staff member who grew up near the University Park Campus, said he struggles to afford the city’s cost of living on his current salary and benefits. 

“I’ve been working here 20 years, and I’m now working only 34 hours and that’s not enough to pay my rent,” Muñoz said. “I got kids.”

Speaker of the Senate Emily Donahue said she was moved by the experiences of the workers. 

“You’ve made such an impact on all of our lives and you deserve to be treated with the respect and dignity,” Donahue said at the meeting. “It is honestly an atrocity that the University treats people who are so integral to our daily lives like this. I promise you that we all will be advocates for actual change.”  

The Senate also passed revisions to the elections code for 2020. The proposed elections code was presented by the elections and recruitment team at last week’s meeting. 

Senators debated allowing USG members to participate on campaign teams during elections ultimately deciding to restrict the practice due to conflicts of interests. 

“During elections, USG members have a responsibility to campus and the organization,” director of elections and recruitment Vaanyari Goel said during the meeting. “When they’re wearing those white USG election t-shirts, they are the neutral body.” 

Senators also differed on allowing USG members to give advice to candidates. 

Sen. Randi Anderson said she would not like to remain neutral during elections, wishing to support candidates who would support the needs of the black community on campus 

“As a Black woman, I don’t want to be neutral and I want my voice to be heard, so if somebody that is trying to run for Senate is running I want to say I support that person because I know they are trying to work for what I need,” Anderson said. “The Black population is such an underrepresented population already, so me as a person, I should be able to state that is who I want.” 

During the meeting, the Senate also passed a resolution on extending the freshman forgiveness program, which allows first years to retake up to three classes in which they received a grade of D+ or below, to transfer students. The resolution aimed to ease the transition for transfer students, who often experience a decline in GPA when acclimating to a new academic environment.