Union Files Suit over Employee Death at UC Berkeley

The American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees Union alleged the University of California, Berkeley responsible for custodial worker Damon Frick’s death for violating the University’s health and safety policies.

uc_color_logoThe American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees Union filed a formal complaint on May 7 to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration after the death of a worker at UC Berkeley. AFSCME 3299, the University of California’s largest union, which represents more than 22,000 employees, alleged that UC Berkeley did not comply with its health and safety policies.

UC Berkeley custodial worker Damon Frick fell off of a 20-foot-high platform while cleaning window sills in Berkeley’s Chevron Auditorium. An April 10 Daily Californian article stated that Frick passed away after the incident due to injuries sustained in the fall.

According to a AFSCME press release, the foot lift was more than 30 years old and was unstable. AFSCME 3299 President and fellow UC Berkeley service worker Kathyrn Lybarger said in the press release that UC service workers generally bear the most physically demanding labor at the university.

“We have been sounding alarms for years about the hazardous working conditions and skyrocketing injury rates,” Lybarger said. “This was an entirely preventable tragedy, and the UC must be held accountable.”

AFSCME claimed that the university violated its own health and safety policies by instructing Frick to perform dangerous duties that are not listed in his job description.

In the formal complaint letter to OSHA, AFSCME requested a “campuswide review of dangerous and hazardous tasks” that are performed by AFSCME workers to guarantee the safety and rights of workers.

According to UC Berkeley’s spokesperson Janet Gilmore, the university is currently conducting investigations on the incident. Meanwhile, the university is providing psychological counseling services for workers who were affected by the tragedy.

Frick’s co-worker and UC Berkeley’s International House’s Director of Physical Operations Greg Rodolari told the Daily Californian that Frick was the sole provider for his family.

“He was a huge family man,” Rodolari said. “It was great to see somebody who loved being a family person — that was a big part of Damon that kept him working here.”

In response to Frick’s death, his family is currently pressing the university to take accountability for his death and pursuing a wrongful death claim against UC Berkeley.

Currently, AFSCME 3299 announced that they are organizing a fundraising campaign to help aid Frick’s family. The Daily Californian also reported that the housing custodial team at UC Berkeley is honoring Frick’s death by creating a trust fund in his memory.

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