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Yee urges Genetech CEO to support food workers

By rgordon
Tuesday, May 15th, 2007 at 10:40 pm in Uncategorized.

State Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, is following in the footsteps of the South San Francisco City Council in calling on biotech giant Genentech to take a stand in raising the standards for its food service workers.

Leland YeeIn a May 8 letter to Genentech Chairman and CEO Arthur Levinson, Yee urged Genentech, which contracts with Redwood-City based Guckenheimer Enterprises for the workers, to adhere to a “Socially Responsible Contractor’s Code of Conduct.”

“The workers for contractors such as Guckenheimer do not receive sufficient compensation in order to live sustainably in San Mateo County,” Yee wrote. “Without adequate wages and benefits, a heavy burden is placed upon our public resources that must compensate for this shortfall. Having a large workforce struggling for the basic necessities of life is damaging not only to families but to our community as well.”

The three-page letter follows an April 12 public forum on the matter, organized by U.S. Rep Tom Lantos, D-San Mateo, and attended by Yee. The attention to the issue was largely spurned by Unite Here, a national organization that has supported the effort by Guckenheimer workers to unionize. With the help of Unite Here, workers spoke at council meetings in South San Francisco and Daly City, prompting both jurisdictions to adopt the code of conduct in March.

The code of conduct that Yee urges Genentech to follow includes provisions that workers are provided with affordable medical insurance, wages that allow families to enjoy a decent quality of life, and a guarantee that workers have the right to organize without management intervention. The code further requires that if contractors change, the current workforce will remain and the new contractor will offer better or comparable compensation and working conditions.

The letter also asks Genentech to “follow through with a pledge” made to forum panelist Henry Rutland, president of the San Mateo County chapter of the NAACP to convene a meeting including Levinson, community members gathered by Rabbi Marvin Goodman, the executive director of the Board of Rabbis of Northern California, and Guckenheimer workers.

Unite Here has contended that workers make as little as $10.50 an hour and cannot afford Guckenheimer’s health insurance premiums.

“San Mateo County has undergone an economic transformation in the past few decades,” Yee wrote. “Unfortunately, the economic and social gains of this transformation have not been equitably distributed. Whereas the development of high-tech and bio-tech industries has brought well-paying jobs and prosperity to some, it has also raised the cost of living considerably.”

Genentech contends that Unite Here’s “allegations do not accurately portray the standards experienced by those workers assigned at Genentech.” The biotech company told the Insider in April that it has its own code of conduct for its contractors requiring them to offer “fair wages, competitive benefits, fair and equitable treatment of employees” and that Guckenheimer has assured Genentech that it “wholeheartedly endorses these principles.”

Previously: Daly City backs food workers; South City next?

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