LBRE Grounds Operations Suspended – Workers Sent Home with Pay due to Poor Air Quality.

On Friday, November 9th 2018 when SEIU Local 2007 leaders met with Stanford University at the Labor Management Committee the University had no defined plan or protocol to deal with these dangerous conditions.

The precautionary actions that were recommended did not consider the bargaining unit and their daily tasks. The University wanted to discuss the issue in January. The Union strongly urged management to consider the health of all of the workers on campus that were directly affected by the poor air quality.

Days later the smoke continues to linger and the air quality has reached unhealthy levels. Today, Thursday, November 15th, 2018 LBRE AVP Bob Reidy suspended Grounds Operations at 1:00pm. Workers were sent home with pay for the remainder of the day, all day Friday, and all day Saturday. The department is currently reviewing the exposure of the other remaining groups to determine if their operations can continue safely or if, they too, should be sent home.

The Union will be collaborating with the LBRE Employee Health and Safety to develop future protocols.

So far Bob Reidy is the only University leader that has taken workers’ health and safety into consideration. We commend him for the actions he took today.


LBRE Grounds Services Director, Ted Tucholski and LBRE Safety Manager, Lizzette Vargas-Malpica gather Grounds workers to announce the suspension of operations.
LBRE Grounds Services Director, Ted Tucholski and LBRE Safety Manager, Lizzette Vargas-Malpica gather Grounds workers to announce the suspension of operations.

R&DE Operations Workers Don’t Accept Management’s “Peak Operations” THREE MONTH Calendar



R&DE Housing workers have been trying to sort out this confusing “peak operations” calendar with management for MONTHS. Last winter (2017) the affected workers delivered a petition to Michael VanFossen regarding the peak (“blackout”) operations calendar that they had rolled out, without any conversation.  The department did address some concerns  regarding the vacation policy and even apologized for the manner in which the calendar was rolled out. However, a significant element of the workers’ demands have not been addressed. The contract clearly states that “supervisors will indicate the operational needs of the group in question” (8.2.E). We have interpreted that to mean every supervisor will evaluate the peak work times for their specific work group. As of today, this has not happened. VanFossen has said the MCP has “one heartbeat” and that is his reason for the one operational calendar. We know that each work group is very different and  has very different periods of peak activity. Separate peak operation calendars for each work group should reflect that.

The Union has filed a grievance and on September 11, 2018 there was a Step 2 meeting where workers testified to the different operational needs and highlighted the CBA and grievance agreements that supported our position. R&DE management continues to say that there has been no change to their peak operations calendar (aka “blackout”) practice yet, according to Kevin Lortie, a 35+ year employee of Stanford University, there has never been a 12 week “black out” period  that has applied to the 9 different work groups in R&DE Housing.

The R&DE Housing workers were not satisfied with the discussion at the step 2 so they decided to take action and march on the boss. On September 12, 2018 these workers delivered a petition demanding that the supervisors meet with the leads of each work group and the shop steward to review the unique operation calendars and create one that reflects the true needs of each work group. Senior Director  of R&DE Maintenance Operations and Capital Projects Michael VanFossen,  Senior Human Resources Business Partner Rania Perry, and Mark Bernie were in attendance. VanFossen opened the impromptu meeting by saying that there was no need for the “theatrics” and that he hoped we could have a respectful conversation. SEIU Local Member Harry pointed out that we were not theatrical – chanting and marching together is the union way of expressing our views and solidarity on this issue. (I couldn’t have said it better myself!) The hour long meeting included the members expressing their discontent and confusion about the calendar. They asked for transparency, communication, and a consistent message that reaches their direct supervisor. For example, VanFossen refuses to call this “peak operations” calendar a “black out” calendar but when talking to the workers lower level supervisors still refer to it as a “black out” calendar. In fact, they have used this calendar to deny time off requests. VanFossen kept on reiterating that the calendar was an “educational tool” for the managers to start the conversation with their workers about time off requests and high peak work times. This has not been happening. 


The University has until the end of September to get us their response to our grievance. If the workers are not satisfied we will be going to arbitration  and kicking up the level of actions taken.

March on the Boss_Housing OPS_2018.09.12 (1)

Time will tell.