Student Workers Petition Against Cap on Employment Hours

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UC Irvine student employees rallied behind a petition aimed at amending the 19.5 hour per week cap for student labor in an effort to allow student workers an increased schedule flexibility, and security in on-campus jobs. In addition, they have proposed plans for a possible student workers’ coalition and the Million Student March.

Neira Hernandez, UCI third-year and Anteater Express operator, formed an online petition at the end of week 3 voicing student workers’ concerns with the scheduling policy. The petition demanded the attention of Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Enrique J. Lavernia, Associate Chancellor Ramona Agrela, and ASUCI President Parshan Khosravi.

In the petition, Hernandez states that she and fellow operators should not be scheduled more than 19.5 hours, but “if a student employee chooses to work more, for their personal well-being” they should be allowed to exceed the hours regulation by picking up more shifts.

As early as Week 0 of this fall quarter, UCI employers warned their student employees that the 19.5 hour rule would be strictly enforced, or else consequences such as termination would follow.

This regulation, however, has made it difficult for students who are already maxed out at 19.5 hours a week to trade or cover shifts. This dilemma further affects the operations and quality of on-campus businesses by leading to understaffed shifts.

During week 0, this regulation impacted the Student Center’s Starbucks, as most baristas were already maxed out at 19.5 hours and couldn’t cover shifts. This understaffing led to issues like shift-leads having to close the store—an arduous task that usually requires at least five workers—with only two other newly trained employees.

The 19.5 hour cap also limits students from participating in the the new UC minimum wage increase granted to campus staff members working 20 hours a week.

Current Student Center Starbucks employee, and Organizing Director under ASUCI’s Office of the Executive Vice President Taylor Chanes is currently aiming to facilitate a student worker representative under the Office of the President’s Liaison’s Council.

Chanes argues that UCI student workers need a solid, reliable representative that they can go to this year, especially since labor issues have been frequently occurring.

The need for better representation for student workers’ rights was triggered for Chanes last year when her employer, Student Center Starbucks, and two other campus facilities were forced on short notice to participate in an additional 24-hours operational week during midterms.

Members of administration pushed for Langson Library, Gateway Study Center, and Starbucks to be opened for 24 hours during week 5, a decision which failed to consider the input of the facilities’ student workers, and was announced to employees only one week prior to week 5.

Chanes responded to this trial operational week by initiating an online petition and meeting with Jack McManus, Director of Hospitality & Dining Services, and Dan Dooros, Associate Vice Chancellor of Auxiliary Services & Resource Planning.

As a result of the meetings, Starbucks was exempted from the 24-hour midterms week. However, the two other studying facilities were not. The trial also proved ineffective, as no business gains or increases were met.

Chanes also noted how alarming it is that UC Irvine’s Hospitality & Dining services work in collaboration with Aramark, a company known for profiting off of labor in privatized prisons.

This contradicts legislation passed by ASUCI’s Legislative Council on Feb. 13, 2014 stipulating that “UCI will not make further investments, in any companies materially supporting or profiting from the prison industrial complex.”

This year, Chanes, along with Hernandez and other student workers’ rights groups, hope to combat labor grievances before student workers are compromised again. On Thursday, Nov. 12 during week 7, UC Irvine students will participate in the Million Student March taking place across the country.

At the event, students will march around campus advocating for “tuition-free public college, cancellation of all student debt, and a fifteen dollar minimum wage for all campus workers,” according to the movement’s demands.  

The Million Student March aims to present an opportunity for students burdened by the 19.5 hour cap and other workers’ issues to channel their energy into another movement for their advancement.

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