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Posted 10:49 pm
November 5, 2013

Cesar Chavez Student Center custodians concerned about auxiliary merger

Erika Santos, Naresh Mathur, Bernie Carrera, Maria Suarez and Carlos Rosales pose for a photo in the basement of Cesar Chavez Wednesday Oct 30, 2013. The unionized custodial staff of Cesar Chavez Student Center are unsure where their union will stand following a campus auxiliary merger. Photo by Kate O'Neal / Xpress

Erika Santos, Naresh Mathur, Bernie Carrera, Maria Suarez and Carlos Rosales pose for a photo in the basement of Cesar Chavez Wednesday Oct 30, 2013. The unionized custodial staff of Cesar Chavez Student Center are unsure where their union will stand following a campus auxiliary merger. Photo by Kate O’Neal / Xpress

The merging of the Cesar Chavez Student Center with the Associated Students, Inc. looms overhead leaving the custodians of the student center — and their benefits package — in limbo.

Currently the student center employs the custodians. However, the planned merger to create an Enhanced Student Auxiliary means their employer will no longer exist.

“We want to speak to (the University) authorities face to face,” said Carlos Rosales, founding member of Teamster Local 856 and former steward of the custodians. “We want a draft like they provided for the vendors.”

The current proposal shows that ASI will take over most operations and programming in the building, and the University assumes the rest, including vendors. The plan, according to the University, is that the custodians will now be University employees, but that puts their jobs and benefits at stake because they will need to be represented by one of the University’s other employee unions that may have different agreements.

Dean of Students, Joseph Greenwell, addresses Liliana cortez, the union representative for the student center's custodial staff. Photo by Kate O'Neal / Xpress

Dean of Students, Joseph Greenwell, addresses Liliana cortez, the union representative for the student center’s custodial staff. Photo by Kate O’Neal / Xpress

However, no formal offer has been presented to the custodians.

Teamsters is a nationwide union that represents about 1.4 million workers in labor negotiations.

“Our members wish to maintain represented by Teamsters,” said Rosales, who has maintained the facility for 22 years. “However, we are open to dialogue with the authorities, if and only if, our seniority, years of service, our desire to work in the same location, and our benefits are respected.”

Rosales said he and his coworkers feel frustrated because they haven’t been treated the same as the vendors in the student center, who have already been presented with a plan — even though many of the custodians have worked for the student center for more than 20 years.

They are especially worried they might lose their seniority — and possibly face layoffs — along with a loss of their pension funds, Rosales said.

Nine out of the 11 employees have already vested in their pension plan, which means that their employer has contributed to their retirement plans. The custodians don’t know if they are going to have to opt out of that pension and start anew, nor do they know how many years it might take them to be vested in a new one.

Rosales attended the ASI Board of Directors meeting last week, along with two of his coworkers and their union representative, Liliana Cortez.

Cortez questioned whether any of the students knew exactly what was going on with the merger after she spoke to some of the board members at the meeting.

“Associated Students represents the student body, why is it the students are being told, ‘this is what’s happening,’ versus ‘what do you guys think about this?’ They are being pushed into a merger or whatever this is without anybody’s input,” Cortez said. “There are two boards that have enough power to question this sort of thing and these sort of decisions and that hasn’t happened and I don’t think even the students that are sitting in there know exactly what this is.”

On July 31 and Aug. 1, ASI and the CCSC Governing Board passed resolutions to approve the “synergy” of both entities to increase effectiveness and efficiencies by combining duplicate services like Human Resources and Marketing, according to the Dean of Student’s website.

Task force groups that consist of members of both ASI and CCSC departments have been created to help with the organization of the merger and produce the final Enhanced Student Auxiliary. 

However, members of the ASI Board of Directors have said they feel their input in the decision making is not valued.

“It seems that we are not really given any say, any power, or anything, you’re telling us what to do….What power do students have in any of this?” Representative-at-Large Kenneth Collins said.

Dean Joseph Greenwell was unable to respond to many of the concerns. He said that although many of those issues presented might be a possibility, nothing has been officially decided regarding the custodians.

He did, however, reassure the board that their input was highly essential in the synergy.

“I hope we don’t lose the big picture,” Greenwell said. “The enhanced auxiliary is still there and your voice is extremely important.”