Sunday, April 30, 2006

Those four ads in the Miami Herald

Many of you will have seen or heard about four full-page ads placed by the University of Miami in the Miami Herald from Tuesday April 25th to Friday April 28th. Each ad revolves around a particular theme. We would like to respond.

Tuesday April 25th: "We Provided Higher Wages. We Provided Health Insurance. We Have Done Our Part." UM did indeed require all its contractors to increase the minimum pay of their employees to $8 an hour. We commend this move. The fact that it was made shows that a university's president can intervene to correct injustices perpetrated by its contractors. However, the increased wages are still well below the living wage required of all contractors by Miami-Dade County and the City of Miami. The City of Miami requires a minimum hourly rate of $10.58 if health insurance is provided, and $11.83 otherwise.

The ad mentions that the health insurance to be offered to UNICCO workers costs $13 a month. This is the premium for employee coverage alone. Employee/spouse and employee/child premiums are $266 and $241 respectively. Family coverage is a whopping $493, fully 34% of the income of a full-time worker making $8.50 an hour. We understand that President Shalala, an expert on health care, told her class this semester that affordable health care should not cost more than 10% of a person’s income. UNICCO workers may be able to afford health care for themselves (we say may because there is still nothing known of the actual coverage, deductibles and co-pays), but most likely will have to see their spouses and children go without.

As for having "done its part," can anyone say this when there is still injustice going on under their noses which they are in a position to alleviate?

Wednesday April 26th: "Outside Protestors Trespass On Our Campus. Our Students, Faculty, and Staff Are Harassed. The Union Has Gone Too Far." The cry of "outsiders" and "anarchists" (also mentioned in the ad) is classic. People who went to Mississippi in the 60’s were "outsiders," those who brought us an 8 hour workday were "anarchists," etc., etc.

It is not clear just who the university is alluding to. President Shalala spoke at the recent Faculty Senate meeting of "Black Block" anarchists and other "scary" types but no details have been made public. We have seen a handful of people at rallies who were not union, faculty, students, workers, or known community stalwarts (clergy, living wage people, etc.). We have never seen or heard of any violence (except on the part of security or police against students). There was one act of vandalism when some students from another university scrawled on the back of Ashe with a marker; one of these students has since spoken to UM faculty asking what he could do to make sure that our students are not disciplined for his actions, noting that he was not invited by the students or the union to attend the rally. The university’s reaction here is just a little hysterical.

As for "the union has gone too far," it should be remembered that the only serious disruptions have occurred when the administration closed down Ashe. On one occasion, the students did a sit-in in the Admissions office, not an academic unit. The administration locked down the building and police prevented faculty from leaving to teach their classes. The sit-in was not organized by the union but the students, who are intelligent, courageous, free agents. When Charles Steele, president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (Martin Luther King’s organization), went to Ashe to try to see President Shalala, some students entered the building and were forcibly removed. Ashe was locked down, once again, impeding students and faculty from getting to classes and offices. The students remained in front of the building with tape over their mouths, humming "We shall overcome" with clergy offering prayers, hardly disruptive actions. The administration again had increased police presence, on occasion locking down Ashe, when David Bonior, former Speaker of the House, appeared at the Episcopal Center; when 77-year-old Ed Asner came to Ashe to try to see President Shalala, speaking to the few students who were in front; when Rev. Steele, former candidate for Vice President John Edwards, and Jimmy Hoffa spoke at a rally off campus. The union had nothing to do with the decisions to shut down Ashe, disrupting the free movement of students, faculty and staff.

Thursday April 27th: "They Stage Daily Publicity Stunts. They Disrupt Our Academic Mission. The Union Needs To Stop Its Tactics." See comments on the previous ad. In addition, this ad says "the union... encourag[ed] UM students and UNICCO workers to starve themselves." This is false. The hunger strikers acted autonomously and without encouragement. In fact, the union tried to dissuade people from hunger striking. This is perfectly consistent with supporting them once they decided to act for themselves.

Friday April 28th April: "They Don’t Want Workers To Vote. They Argue Against Freedom and Democracy. Does The Union Think Workers Are Second-Class Citizens?" Here the university clearly aligns itself with UNICCO (so much for their neutrality), whose slogan is "let ‘em vote." We have explained over and over the nature of the card check process the union and the workers want: how it is fairer, more representative, less open to abuse that an election conducted by the NLRB.

The ad contains one particular mistake that has also characterized the Miami Herald’s news coverage. "This method [i.e. card check] involves soliciting individual signatures from UNICCO employees and does not guarantee participation by all UNICCO employees." In fact, if a worker does not sign a card, it counts as a no vote. Hence the method does guarantee participation by all workers and requires a majority of all workers in order to be successful. It is the NLRB election advocated by UM and UNICCO that does not guarantee participation by all. Like any election, non-voters’ opinions do not count for or against. Hence, the election is won only by a majority of those who choose to vote. This could, needless to say, be a minority of the workers as a whole.

It is, frankly, offensive for the university to suggest that the union thinks "the workers are second-class citizens" because it insists on a card check process. Card check is the most common method of private sector unionizations today in the US. Last year, 70% of all private sector workers unionized were unionized by card check or similar processes. UNICCO itself has admitted to using the method for at least half its unionized employees, and the information we have seen indicates that the true figure is 90% of all its 8500 unionized workers. There is currently a bill in congress with bi-partisan support that would make it obligatory for companies to recognize the results of card check processes. Were you to ask the workers who thinks they are second-class citizens, they would surely answer UNICCO and the UM administration.


Anonymous said...

Now I've read it all! If the author of this ridiculas "article" strewed with outright lies and mis-infornmation believes that we, the general public will read this and think "oh my gosh - it's all UM's fault!", than you have certainly forgotten that you're dealing with mature, educated adults - that for the most part see this sham for what it really is - a union trying to increase it's dues base.

Please grow up, recognize the need for a secret vote here - and learn how to deal with the workers TELLING YOU that they can't afford your service. This has went on long enough, please SEIU, try listening to the workers instead of trying to take their hard-earned money.

"SEIU makes me SICK"

giovanna said...

i would like to bring to the attention of those who have not read the ads that the ads targeted the SEIU directly, and closed with an invitation to the SEIU and UNICCO to "engage in daily discussions to bring a swift resolution to this situation." the workers were hardly mentioned in the bodies of the first three ads, and mentioned in the fourth only as objects of manipulation on the part of the union.

any of us who knows the workers must find this terribly offensive. here are grown men and women with incredible political experience, many of them activists in their original contries, willing to take decisions as extreme and painful as starving themselves for 17 days and staying on strike for 8 weeks, and the university simply erases them as non-entities.

my heart goes out to all workers and immigrants whose lives get constantly pushed into anonymity by the rhetorics of power and racism. they deserve our unflinching support.

Simon Evnine said...

Dear "SEIU makes me sick",

You can't just stamp your foot and say it's all lies. You have to be a little more specific, and bring your evidence.

Anonymous said...

I thought the US was all about democracy and free lections - whatever happened to that!

MIT said...

i know its petty....really I do, but since you made it a point to mention that you were an "educated" adult...

ridiculous, not "ridiculas"
strewn, not "strewed"
its, not "it's"
This has gone on, not "This has went on"

Once again, I apologize, but I just couldn't help myself.

"Bad grammar makes me SICK"

ARKloster said...

I find that historically secret ballots are the most fair way of having elections.

The dogmatism of these leftist professors and SEIU lapdogs is astounding! Every student I've spoken with that isn't directly involved with the push for media attention has been in support of a clear vote.

Thank goodness it's not even summer yet and the issue is dead in the water. And yes, as just-another-corporation, of COURSE the SEIU is just after money. This doesn't make them evil, but it sure as hell puts the burden of proof on the Big-Labor types.

Simon Evnine said...

Dear Arkloster,

You miss an essential point. The union's financial interests are the same as the workers', since the union gets a percentage of what the workers make. UNICCO's financial interests, by contrast, are the opposite of the workers', since whatever the workers make comes out of UNICCO's pockets.
Now, which of these institutions, UNICCO or the SEIU, is more likely to benefit the workers?

student advocate said...

mit-- good catch... (get it?) i didn't want to point out the obvious, so i'm glad you did.. and it was not petty..

petty is to ask arkloster if s/he wants to recant his/her statement in light of today's news.. you know, the "dead in the water part"?

Anonymous said...

Simon Evnine

Sorry Simon, but anytime you're taking money out of someone else's pocket - you have an opposite financial interest. The SEIU in hoping to take money out of the pockets of the workers clearly gives them an opposite interest as the workers. You can argue until you're blue in the face - but you should have learned that lesson years ago.

T said...

This argument by Anonymous makes no sense. If a worker makes $8 without a union vs. $13 with a union and pays dues, then the worker is better off with the union. Financial interest is the same.