The Graduate Students Association and University of California Student Association have officially boycotted the San Clemente Graduate Student Housing complex after contract painters at UCSB alleged that their wages were withheld.
In a joint GSA and UCSA statement, graduate students, incoming graduate students and undergraduate students were urged to boycott the San Clemente housing application. GSA also requested that students who had already submitted applications withdraw them and cancel all pending contracts with the university.
The press release stated: “We now call on all students at UC Santa Barbara to accept the moral obligation our administration has failed to recognize. … As a student body, we cannot consciously support continued exploitation and unfair treatment of our community members.”
In late November, 13 workers employed by university subcontractor Ryan’s Painting alleged they did not receive wages for as many as seven weeks of work on housing blocks B and C of the 327-unit housing facility. The new housing site, which is scheduled to open for the 2008-09 school year, will accommodate 964 graduate and transfer students and is located along El Colegio Road.
Amber M. Gonzalez, vice president of student affairs for the GSA said the UCSA unanimously agreed to back the boycott, sending a letter of support to UC President Robert C. Dynes.
Additionally, the UCSA resolution holds UCSB and the UC system liable for the painters’ wages, regardless of legal obligation.
Gonzalez said she hopes the boycott will spur Vice Chancellor for Administrative Services Donna Carpenter and Associate Vice Chancellor of Facilities Management Marc Fisher to work with students to aid the unemployed workers.
According to Gonzalez, students have already organized a fundraiser for the workers beginning Friday night at 9:30 at 6612 Sueño Rd. in Isla Vista.
“We’re trying to put our heads together to figure out something to do,” Gonzalez said. “Maybe we can develop some sort of fellowship or charity for the workers. The UC could [also] urge another subcontractor to hire the workers.”
In December, the university attempted to negotiate with the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades, which had come to represent the Ryan’s employees. However, negotiations were interrupted when three of the painters decided to acquire their own attorney and independently sue Ryan’s Painting for the lost wages. As a result, the union was forced to postpone rescind a stop work order against UCSB until it frees itself from the liability of representing the three painters who have now sought their own representation.
Since the workers quit, Ryan’s Painting defaulted on its contract, meaning the workers would now have to seek money owed to them from the painting firm’s bonding company. While university officials were unavailable as of press time, in a previous statement, Fisher said that UCSB hired ProWest Constructors to manage the painting of the San Clemente project and that ProWest contracted Ryan’s Painting. He said ProWest acted only as a manager and was not directly responsible for the wages of painting employees. Fisher said that responsibility belonged to Ryan’s Painting.