Students rallied in front of Cheadle Hall yesterday, marching in circles and chanting slogans in support of a group of unpaid San Clemente Graduate Student Housing Project painters.
In late November, a group of workers hired by San Diego company Ryan’s Painting alleged they did not receive wages for as many as seven weeks of work for painting housing blocks B and C of the 327-unit project. 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.
Ryan’s Painting allegedly owes the 13 employees $87,840.69. The workers, who are being represented by the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades for District Council 36, plan to file suit against Ryan’s Painting this Friday.
According to Vice Chancellor for Administrative Services Donna Carpenter, UCSB is also applying to Ryan’s Painting’s bonding company for the painters’ back wages. The university, however, has stated that it is not legally responsible for the payment due to the workers. In previous interviews, university officials have stated that UCSB hired ProWest Constructors to manage subcontracted painting companies like Ryan’s Painting, and that Ryan’s Painting is responsible for the wages due to its employees.
Carpenter said although she believes increased oversight could be useful in dealing with labor projects, there are pre-existing mechanisms within the state to resolve labor issues.
“I don’t disagree with students,” Carpenter said. “I think we need to be a little more proactive when it comes to workers. On the other hand, the state provides processes if [workers] don’t get paid from a contract.”
However, rally organizer Franky Fuentes, a Chicana and Chicano studies graduate student, said in a written statement the administration could do more to assist the painters, who he said are facing financial strains and evictions due to their lost wages.
“The university is limiting its involvement due to the policies it has conveniently created,” Fuentes said. “Students know that the university can play a larger role in attaining payment on behalf of the workers.”
At the rally – attended by about 75 students, workers and community members – Associated Students External Vice President of Local Affairs Lindsey Quock said that workers deserve proper compensation.
“Our student fees are increasing, but workers aren’t even getting paid,” Quock said. “The first thing the university can do is play a more active role in worker’s affairs.”
In a previous interview, District Council 36 Organizing Director Mike Gutierrez said the union was on the verge of reaching a settlement in December, but that negotiations were postponed after three workers decided to seek independent legal representation.
Negotiations between the union and Ryan’s Painting continued until last Friday, when Ryan’s allegedly failed to deliver upon an agreed monetary settlement, Gutierrez said.
Ryan’s Painting did not return any phone calls to the Daily Nexus.
As a result of the alleged default on payment, Gutierrez said he plans to file a lawsuit against the painting company this Friday on behalf of the 10 workers.
“I’m going to file the lawsuit and let the lawsuit take its course,” Gutierrez said. “I see that I have no other option but to do it.”
The UCSB Graduate Students Association and the University of California Students Association passed resolutions in February boycotting the complex. The Associated Students Legislative Council also passed a resolution in support of the workers.