Workers demand full pay

UNITE HERE Local 11 is petitioning USC’s current policy of payment to its staff for four weeks. The union organized with students last month to protest workers’ compensation rights. (Vincent Leo | Daily Trojan)

The workers’ union UNITE HERE Local 11 is demanding that USC guarantee full pay and benefits to its hospitality, custodial and maintenance staff during the coronavirus outbreak, which is leaving many unable to perform their jobs, the union wrote in a petition that surfaced Thursday and has garnered more than 2,000 signatures. 

The petition comes in light of a University email sent to the USC community initially announcing that employees would be eligible for two weeks of paid administrative leave. In another campuswide email, published after the release of the petition, the University announced that the leave policy will be extended to four weeks before workers would need to use saved-up vacation days for continued pay. 

Despite this development, UNITE HERE Local 11 communications representative Maria Hernandez said the union is still pushing for the demands laid out in the petition. 

The policy will leave workers and their families in an economic crisis if they are not guaranteed full pay for as long as the coronavirus crisis continues, according to the petition.  

“As we have learned in recent months, many of these workers already live paycheck-to-paycheck in a city that is increasingly unaffordable,” it read. “They take care of us throughout the year and now, in this difficult time, it is our turn to take care of them.”

USC has not yet responded directly to the petition, Hernandez said, but the union hopes the University becomes aware of it, especially as it gains traction. 

“We just want to get the word out as much as possible,” Hernandez said. “The more submissions that we get, the more helpful it is because it’ll show the workers that we [support them] … We’re going to continue to make sure that USC workers are being taken care of during this crisis and we’re hoping the University will listen.”

In a statement to the Daily Trojan, USC wrote that it will continue to evaluate different options to help its workers during the pandemic. 

“We will continue to pay attention to federal and local support options that may be provided [to] all employees, as we evaluate strategies and inform our employees of pay continuation options,” the statement read. “As more information becomes available in this rapidly changing landscape, we will update our community.”

UNITE HERE Local 11 has been working to secure higher wages and a 40-hour work week for USC Hospitality and Housing workers in ongoing contract negotiations since Nov. 13. USC is currently working with UNITE HERE Local 11 to ensure a fair agreement with workers. 

“I think the University definitely needs to protect workers right now during this crisis, but I think workers also definitely need a sustainable solution besides these crises,” said Ada Marys Lorenzana, a member of the student committee of UNITE HERE Local 11. “That goes for giving them a fair contract, which is really what we’re urging for — especially during times like now.”