Genentech urged to rally for food service workers 

Area city officials are calling for industry leader Genentech to "step up" and influence its food services contractor, Guckenheimer Enterprises, to provide appropriate wages and benefits to its workers.

The so-called "socially responsible code of conduct" for contractors has recently been passed by the Daly City Council and signed by four of five South San Francisco City Council members. The code, which has been touted by UNITE HERE, a union representing service industry workers, includes standards of fair wages, neutrality toward union organizing and affordable health care, among other things.

Genentech said it has its own code of conduct with its contractors and that Redwood Shores-based Guckenheimer Enterprises endorses those principles of fair wages, competitive benefits, fair and equitable treatment of employees and compliance with local, state and federal law.

The labor union wants to achieve its political objectives — attracting more members — by trying to "publicly embarrass Guckenheimer and Genentech," according to a Genentech statement.

At least 120 Guckenheimer workers work at Genentech’s four cafeterias, said Catherine Cusic, the organization coordinator for UNITE HERE International.

"They might work for one of the wealthiest companies in the world, but they might as well work for a small company," Cusic said.

Food service workers earn on average 69 percent less than the median income in the area. According to San Mateo County statistics, South City’s median income is $61,764 while Daly City’s is $62,310.

South City Councilman Mark Addiego, who has signed on to the code of conduct, said the current situation was a "challenge to Genentech to step up and look at the situation they’re a party to, even though it’s a third party."

"I think some of us are really looking for Genentech to be a leader on this issue the way they’re a leader in their industry and our community," Addiego said.

A biotechnology leader and largest employer in South San Francisco, Genentech will remain "neutral" with regards to lawful union organizing activity, spokeswoman Colleen Wilson said.

"[The company] expects that union organizing activities will not create a disruption in our operations. Genentech expects contractors to respect the right of their employees to make independent decisions regarding union representation," Wilson said.

Guckenheimer employees have denied UNITE HERE’s advances because of their satisfaction with their jobs, according to a Guckenheimer statement.

dsmith@examiner.com

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