Stanford: Commit to pay continuance for ALL service workers through Spring Quarter

Persis Drell, Provost, Stanford University

UPDATE (Apr. 24)

TL;DR Stanford is walking back its promise and refusing to pay or protect its contracted workers. If you are a graduating senior, alum, or donor, sign the No-Donation Pledge to put your power behind workers.

On April 22, our suspicions were confirmed: union representatives with SEIU-United Service Workers West told Students for Workers’ Rights (SWR) that Stanford is reneging on its word. Instead of making a financial commitment to maintain income and benefits for contracted workers through June 15, as it previously promised, the Stanford administration has essentially provided band-aid solutions during a global pandemic: benefits without pay for UG2 workers, legal counsel without pay for SOS workers, and nothing at all for Bon Appetit workers.

Laid-off workers have still not received salaries since they were fired—many since March—and workers were not informed of COVID-19 cases among co-workers, nor given hazard pay or additional sick leave.

On April 23, SWR addressed these grievances in a press conference along with Stanford alumni and affiliates, including Secretary Julian Castro, Congressman Joaquin Castro, Stanford workers and community members, Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs, CA Senate D-11 Candidate Jackie Fielder, former SF Supervisor Jane Kim, and Stanford students. This coalition demanded a plan to fully provide benefits and pay for contracted workers. See press coverage by the Washington Post, KQED, SF Chronicle, and Mercury News.

To put Stanford’s cold feet to the fire, SWR launched a No-Donation Pledge for Stanford’s graduating seniors, alumni, and donors. Signers pledge to withhold donations until Stanford provides compensation, protection, and communication to ALL the workers who make it possible. See the public list of signers, and sign on as an alum/future alum/donor.

UPDATE (Apr. 17)

According to an Apr. 14 email from Provost Drell, Stanford has committed to paying directly employed workers until Jun. 15 and to "supporting" income and benefits for subcontracted workers. Workers themselves have not been informed of any changes. Stanford has not been explicit about what this "support" looks like; we hope it looks like guaranteed pay continuance and health benefits. If and when Stanford clarifies their policies, we will amend our demands accordingly, but our goal -- making pay continuance and health benefits a certainty for every worker -- has not changed. We have requested a meeting with Provost Drell, and despite her explicit commitment to meeting with student leadership, we still have not received a response.


Stanford University has responded to COVID-19 by laying off subcontracted workers, refusing to guarantee all service workers pay for the duration of statewide shelter-in-place orders, and withholding information on the on-campus spread of the virus from staff tasked with keeping the University safe. Despite receiving a former petition with over 2,200 signatures demanding that Stanford protect, inform, and fairly compensate its service workers, the University has not responded to the petition and its call for universal pay continuance. To refuse workers additional paid sick leave, to expose them to COVID-19, and to implement mass lay-offs in the midst of a pandemic is unacceptable.

Over the past two weeks, nearly 200 of Stanford’s subcontracted service workers have been laid off including row chefs, hashers, and janitors. Of these employees, 80 janitorial staff have been let go with no pay continuance and no healthcare benefits to protect themselves and their families. This number is predicted to increase over the coming weeks, with an expected total of 130 layoffs for janitorial staff and a total of 56 row chefs and hashers, as well as at least 50 food service workers hired through Bon Appetit.

Additionally, if subcontracted workers still employed by the University choose to stay home for their own safety, they must use their existing sick leave and vacation days. No one should be forced to choose between their safety and their income. Even direct hires covered by Stanford’s pay continuance policy are guaranteed pay only until April 15th, leaving them in an uncertain, vulnerable situation. Requests to extend pay for direct hires have been denied.

In comparison, peer institutions such as Harvard, MIT, University of Chicago, the University of Pennsylvania, and Northwestern have committed to paying all their workers, including subcontracted workers, through the end of their spring terms. Given that Stanford’s endowment is one of the largest in the country, it is unconscionable that the university is not providing its workers the same basic benefits.

Workers are a critical part of our campus community, and they, as much as students, deserve stability and safety. We are asking you to join us in demanding that Stanford do right by every member of its community.

Petition by
Palo Alto, Canada

To: Persis Drell, Provost, Stanford University
From: [Your Name]

Workers are a critical part of the Stanford community, and you are neglecting your obligation to them. We ask you to implement the following policies to ensure every member of our Stanford family is cared for:

1. Implement pay continuance (full pay for workers regardless of reductions in hours for COVID-19 related reasons) until the end of Spring Quarter for every worker affiliated with the University, including but not limited to workers subcontracted through UG2, SOS, and Bon Appetit. Compensate contracted workers for wages lost due to COVID-19 related hour reductions and layoffs since March 16, 2020, the day the university issued its initial pay continuance policy (1).

2. Extend the existing 10% hazard pay premium being given to members of SEIU Local 2007 to all workers, including subcontracted ones.

3. Match the sick leave policies negotiated by SEIU Local 2007 for directly hired workers.

4. Ensure custodial staff are safe by following CDC (2) and OSHA (3) guidelines. This includes providing PPE, informing workers of the risks COVID-19 poses to them, and training them on how to limit exposure.

5. Keep workers fully informed of the impact of COVID-19 on Stanford. In particular, update workers on confirmed cases, how to adhere to evolving safety guidelines, and whether they have been exposed to COVID-19.

Stanford would be unable to function without its workers. We are deeply troubled that in this time of crisis, Stanford is abandoning the people integral to its existence, instead of dedicating what would constitute a fraction of its endowment to caring for them when they are most vulnerable. Now, more than ever before, the University must support its workers.

Students for Workers' Rights
Students for a Sustainable Stanford
Who's Teaching Us
Students for Environmental and Racial Justice
Stanford Solidarity Network
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