Monday, April 10, 2006

message from the hunger strikers

To all of the Miami Community
From the UNICCO employees on Hunger Strike at UM
(Translated by Bethany Quinn)

Today, April 7, 2006, is the fourth day that UNICCO janitors have been on a hunger strike, after a month and a half of being on strike asking that they be treated like people, humanely. All they ask is that the university respect their human rights like citizens of this country and most of all they ask this under the representation of a union to defend the workers interests.

Today, after the fourth day of the hunger strike for the workers, they had to call the ambulance because one of the workers (Isabel Montalvo) had problems with blood pressure. The ambulance arrived silently, so as not to show the world what is happening at the University of Miami

Another worker was also having problems with high blood pressure, but this worker, Odalys Rodriguez, decided to stay while she has the strength to show everyone that “yes, it is possible” (si se puede!) and we have to win, because we are only asking for liberty and respect, which is what we all hoped to find when we get to this country.

Because of this, we cannot conceive of this attitude that the hunger strike hasn’t been given the appropriate press by the TV channels, now that each of these workers is risking their life to achieve what every person who lives and works in this country should have anyway.

This is why we are writing this short and thoughtful letter, so that everyone will know what is going on at the University of Miami and so that Donna Shalala, the president, will know she is responsible for whatever happens, seeing as though she is the one putting the breaks on the solution to these problems.

-Clara Vargas, elected representative of UNICCO workers and hunger striker

(Odalys was taken to the hospital since this letter was written).

This letter is signed by the remaining hunger strikers:

Feliciano Hernandez, 60
Reinaldo Hernandez, 52
Victoria Corbiajal, 50
Maria Leonor Ramirez, 25
Pablo Rodriguez, 34
Martiza Gomez, 44
Clara Vargas, 32

Seven students will join them on Wednesday after phasing out certain food groups.

In addition to the four complaints filed against UNICCO for “spying, interrogating and threatening workers with reprisals” for supporting a union, some other dozen violations of federal labor law have been brought against the company recently.

Donna Shalala is changing the issue by claiming this is only a process issue. The truth is that UNICCO accepts card check elections in 90% of their unionized workforce, and if the university and UNICCO were serious about finding a fair process, the parties would sit down and develop one that they can both agree on. Instead, Shalala consistently defends and sides with UNICCO management. The workers are on strike for unfair labor practice violations. The right to organize is a human right, and that human right is being violated systematically on this campus. When the University and UNICCO take these claims seriously, and allow recourse to justice for these workers, this will end.


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