Supervisor Jane Kim speaks in support of the Chinese-American hospital workers at UC San Francisco, who were reportedly fired after organizing for higher wages, during a news conference on Tuesday at City Hall. (Ekevara Kitpowsong/Special to S.F. Examiner)

City leaders decry alleged unfair firing of janitors from UCSF

City leaders voiced support Tuesday for UC San Francisco subcontracted janitors who were allegedly fired from the university after they tried to organize for higher wages and other benefits.

The support from members of the Board of Supervisors came just weeks after the California Public Employment Relations Board slammed the hospital with a complaint finding that it had violated fair labor practices.

“These workers exercised their rights guaranteed by the Higher Education Employer-Employee Relations Act,” said Board of Supervisors President London Breed. “They should not face retaliation for trying to improve their working conditions.”

The workers listed in the complaint were janitors hired through third-party contractor IMPEC Group beginning in 2011, according to Breed. Unlike UCSF janitors, the subcontracted workers, many of whom are Chinese immigrants, had wages dropped to $10.74 in early 2014 and did not receive benefits, though they did the same work as custodians employed directly through the university, Breed said.

Kin Kwong, one of the janitors mentioned in the Public Employment Relations Board complaint, said Tuesday that the wage drop from $14.75 to $10.74 in 2014 forced him to find a second job to help support his family.

“It got all the workers really mad,” Kwong said. “That’s why we called out sick for two days and the [Chinese Progressive Association] asked to help.”

The complaint, which was filed by AFSCME Local 3299, a labor union representing University of California Workers, came after the janitors’ contract with UCSF was not renewed in March 2015, causing the Impec Group workers to lose their jobs. UCSF later hired janitors through a different contractor, according to Breed.

In response to the charges by the Public Employment Relations Board, UCSF reportedly responded by saying that they were unable to rehire workers because they could not speak English sufficiently, Breed said.

“It is incredibly difficult when your livelihood and your families’ lives are on the line, to come out and say, ‘We deserve to get paid and we deserve to not get discriminated against because of our ethnicity or because of the languages that we speak,’” said Supervisor Jane Kim.

A resolution authored by Breed in response to the incident targeted UCSF Chancellor Dr. Sam Hawgood and Medical Center CEO Mark Laret and urged them to rehire the former custodians as UCSF employees.

The university denied any wrongdoing in a statement Tuesday.

“UCSF vigorously disputes AFSCME’s allegations and has acted within the law at all times,” the statement reads.

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