Unpaid painters of the San Clemente Student Apartments were given a bridge loan by the university on March 10, according to Marc Fisher, Vice Chancellor for campaigns, designs and facilities.
The move came five days after students continued to rally for the thirteen unpaid painters, who after nine weeks and three holidays, have still not been paid by Ryan’s Painting of San Diego.
At the March 5 rally, students of all creeds chanted and picketed in front of Cheadle Hall, hoping to encourage the administration to take a first step towards compensating the painters.
“We come from immigrant families and this hits home,” said third year student Claudia Sanchez. “Just because they’re immigrants doesn’t give them the right to exploit them.”
According to students who rallied, some painters were given bad checks and Ryan’s Painting had even threatened deportation. “All we want is that they pay us,” said one of two painters present at the rally.
The reason for Ryan’s Painting’s failure to pay the workers is complicated and there is a series of procedures to take in consideration before this issue becomes settled.
When the workers decided to stop working, Ryan’s company seceded from the contract. UCSB paid Ryan’s Painting approximately three quarters of the estimated cost for the work, but kept the remainder of the money approximately $50,000.
This money and the insurance bond money, which is $65,000, cannot be disbursed because of a series of stop notices imposed by the workers and another subcontractor such as Frazee Painting, who Ryan’s Painting also contracted and failed to pay.
Until these bonds are relieved, which won’t be until the problem is resolved, the money is in limbo. Ryan’s Painting currently owes these workers approximately $74,000 plus interest. Although UCSB is legally not responsible for these subcontracted workers, many believe that UCSB still has the moral obligation to help pay these workers. Three of the 13 workers sought private lawyers and the other ten are being represented by the union, Painters & Allied Trades DC36, and are still not certain if they will file a law suite against Ryan’s Painting; the union is still in the process of negotiating with them.
Ryan’s Painting currently owes the unpaid painters approximately $74,000 plus interest. Although UCSB is legally not responsible for these subcontracted workers, many believe that UCSB has a moral obligation to help pay them. Three of the 13 workers sought private lawyers and the other ten are being represented by the Painters & Allied Trades DC36 union, and are uncertain if they will file a law suit against Ryan’s Painting.
“The university is limiting its involvement due to the policies it has conveniently created,” said Franky Fuentes, a Chicana/o Studies PhD student. “Students know that the university can play a larger role in attaining payment on behalf of the workers.”
The UC Student Association (UCSA), Graduate Student Association (GSA), and Associated Students (AS) along with other community members and students have developed resolutions to this problem, which include more UCSB Administration responsibility, involvement, and change.
GSA’s call to Boycott San Clemente Housing, says the administration has failed to abide by UCSB Policy 5515 (Section B.2.a) that requires “All construction involving alterations to buildings or parts thereof, regardless of source of funds, is to be done by members of Facilities Management or by contractors employed by the University and working under the supervision of Facilities Management.” In addition, UCSB Policy 5515 (Section B.2.b) requires this work to “adhere to pertinent codes.”
When asked if he and his team fulfilled the specified requirements in the above stated policy, Vice Chancellor Fisher said, “Absolutely. We did everything according to university policy and state law.”
Fisher said he was not aware of the problem until it was brought to his attention in December and that meetings were immediately held with Ryan’s Painting and bonding company to verify the allegations and remedy the situation.
“I think we [the administration] did everything appropriately,” said Fisher. “This is a contractor that appears to have less than honorable business practices. The workers had several options to remedy this situation and we have consistently provided to them all of their options and have encouraged them to pursue remedies.”
Lindsey Quock, External Vice President of Local Affairs said despite reports from the UC to the RHA and AS, this is not the first time a similar situation has happened at UCSB. “This is just the first time it has been brought to our attention,” she said.
“There are layers of accountability that you don’t know about and this is problematic because they [the UCSB Administration] are not in tune with what is going on, on their own grounds and people’s needs.”
In regards to subcontracting the painters, and not hiring directly, Fisher said that UCSB had no other choice.
“We are prohibited from doing this by state law” the Stull Act. Specifically we are limited to no more than $25,000 in painting work for new construction. UCSB painters could not have painted this project.”
Fisher said the administration is currently looking into preventative strategies for the future. “We are not interested in hurting any worker and want to make certain that all who contribute to our projects are appropriately compensated.”
AS, GSA, UCSA and the Union have developed demands for the university including that UCSB Administrative Services maintain close contact with the union and its representative, keep students updated and supported in efforts to hold all parties accountable, inform students about future contract/subcontract agreements on UCSB property, and proactively spread awareness about conflicts with Ryan’s Painting.