Striking Janitors: University Announcement a Victory, But No Guarantee of Improvements
For the first time since janitors at the University of Miami began their struggle to improve their lives by forming a union, the University of Miami today acknowledged its direct responsibility for the wages and working conditions of workers on its campus. This afternoon a University workgroup convened by President Donna Shalala released a set of recommendations that would set a minimum wage and increase access to some level of health care for contract workers on the campus, including the janitors.
In the report the University did not acknowledge the janitors' freedom to choose to form a union. The University's report also does not instruct its troubled contractor UNICCO to obey labor laws or address the other problems involving UNICCO's actions, which include dozens of labor rights violations and work place safety issues.
"It is good they recognize our pay is too low," said UNICCO janitor Clara Vargas, who cleans the campus of the University of Miami. "This is a victory for our efforts so far, but it is not enough. With a bad company like UNICCO, we need the security of a union contract. We can't rely only on promises when it comes to providing for our families. We want to decide our own future."
The details of the workgroup's recommendations and the timeline for implementation are not yet clear. A previous University of Miami committee issued similar recommendations involving worker compensation in 2001, but they were never implemented.
New Unfair Labor Practice Charges to be Filed Friday Against Troubled Contractor UNICCO
Tomorrow, UNICCO will face two new federal labor law charges filed by SEIU Local 11 on behalf of janitors at the University of Miami. The unfair labor practice charges allege UNICCO illegally coerced and threatened janitors from engaging in union activity and going on strike.
A separate unfair labor practices charge was filed Wednesday on behalf of janitors by SEIU Local 11 alleging that since March 1 UNICCO has been violating the National Labor Relations Act by surveilling the union activities of the janitors, including photographing and videotaping strikers on the picket line.