Friday, March 24, 2006

academic senate: three cheers for justice

i'm reluctant to put this up just above father frank's strong statement in support of the striking workers and his call to join the coral gables clergy in a large rally this upcoming tuesday, but this story has been waiting long enough.

for a complete and detailed account of the 3/22 faculty senate meeting, please go here.

some 30 strike-supporting faculty showed up last wednesday, march 22, to the faculty senate meeting, many of them wearing loud Faculty Support the Strike t-shirts. president shalala opened the meeting, then took questions from some of us. our questions were hard hitting. i asked about the university's supposed neutrality (the president had insisted a lot on this point in her opening remarks): if the university is indeed neutral, why has the striking workers' picket line been relegated to a remote and traffic-less part of campus, where no one can see them? if the university is neutral, why was the union denied access to campus to offer post-hurricane-wilma relief to working janitors?

linda belgrave asked about the new wages: in one of the poorest cities in the country, how can the university give employees wages that are still below living-wage level? and about the english classes the university offers: how can workers attend them when most of them work two jobs, and some even three?

president shalala declined to be specific against the complaints filed against UNICCO with the National Labor Review Board, claiming that neutrality prevented her from discussing these pending complaints. after my exchange with her, i asked if it would be okay to distribute a flyer listing a series of specific grievances (ranging from suspensions to firings) of some UNICCO workers. claiming freedom of speech, the senate chair allowed it, and i passed the flyers out to all present. some of them already had them, because some strikers were flyering outside the building where the meeting was taking place.

after president shalala left, the academic senate unanimously passed two resolutions, one requiring that the university contract with companies that pay at least the Miami-Dade living wage, including affordable employer-subsidized health insurance, and that a committee consisting of faculty, students and administrators be appointed to keep under constant review salaries and other benefits for all contract workers. a second resolution was passed requiring that, if the UNICCO contract is not renewed (it is schedule to expire in the middle of april), the successful bidder be required to offer to any and all UNICCO employees currently assigned to the University of Miami offer positions comparable to or better than they now hold.

In a third resolution, passed by a strong majority, the Senate urged that all parties involved in the union negotiations adhere to fair labor practices and labor law.

thank you to all present, and to our senators (in particular steven green and hugh thomas), for this momentous victory!

giovanna pompele


Liza said...

president shalala's response to my request for a meeting to discuss elements of the workers' situation (namely illegal anti-union practices and the continued lack of a living wage) was, "I have numerous requests for private meetings on this subject. I just can't accommodate them." I asked in reply whether she was planning on being able to accomodate any of them, but I have a sneaking feeling I know what the answer will be. It enrages me that everybody who comes to her with requests for civil discussion gets dismissed out of hand. why won't our university listen to us?

Anonymous said...

yeah, the answer was definitely "no"