Annenberg Radio News

USC cleaning staff protests again on campus over wages

For the third time since last Wednesday, USC students joined custodial workers in urging Aramark to give its employees a larger wage increase ahead of Friday’s negotiations.

USC custodial workers hold up signs and mops while they protest unfair wages from USC contractor Aramark.

USC custodial staff and students protested again today on campus to demand higher wages for the university’s cleaning staff. This protest comes prior to tomorrow’s contract negotiations with Aramark.

Aramark is the contracting company that employs USC’s cleaning staff. Their labor contract expired last Thursday.

Last week Aramark offered its employees a pay increase of 30 cents per hour. Christian Ramirez is the policy director for Service Employees International Union- United Service Workers West, which is the janitor’s union.

He sees Aramark’s initial offer as a “slap in the face.”

Ramirez: It is truly shameful that the folks that make this campus so beautiful are forced to survive on poverty wages. What we’re saying is that it’s time to come to the table with a real solution and to offer workers a salary that is going to allow them to live with dignity and to give them the respect that they deserve.

Custodians are asking for the university’s support in their negotiations for a larger pay increase. Many students have come out to support the protests.

Sonia Iyer is a member of the USC Student Coalition Against Labor Exploitation, also known as SCALE, which has been helping the janitors organize.

Iyer: A lot of students are not very familiar with just the daily lives of these workers and how hard they have to fight and struggle just to have a living wage... I really believe that it’s our duty as students to stand with them and fight with them.

Salvador Hernandez, who has been a custodian at USC for 32 years, is grateful for the support from students and faculty.

Hernandez: We are sending a strong message. We were prepared to go on strike... With you guys help us, supporting us. The rest is going to be easy.

Ramirez is hopeful for the outcomes of the negotiations.

Ramirez: Any time that workers and students come together, and faculty and professors come together — that’s a powerhouse. That’s when change happens.

Ramirez said if demands are not met tomorrow, workers are prepared to strike.

Ramirez: The folks that make millions of dollars on this campus should start preparing their brooms and their mops because they’re going to end up cleaning. Workers are not going to clean their mess.

SCALE has called on the USC community to contact Aramark and university administration to provide an adequate solution.