Monday, April 10, 2006

why a hunger strike: statement from STAND

Why a hunger strike?
It is about civil rights. It is about human rights.
Rally 1:30 at UC Patio on Wednesday
10 workers already on hunger strike for six days
7 students will commence in full force wednesday
We are bound to the struggles of other people. Struggles that are not our own. But we know their families. We know something of their struggles. We know their stories. We know their names. We know that they are experiencing a culture of fear at the University of Miami. We have facts; we have complaints issued by the government; we have countless testimonials. We even have studies and statistics. We know that the right to organize is a human right; it is a civil right. That human right is being violated consistently and systematically on this campus. And the university says it’s “neutral”.

Eloy Morales was called 17 times in one day by UNICCO - - they say he will be fired. Zoila Mursuli was fired for supporting the union. It was even reported in the Orlando Sentinel. We know her family. There was no response by the university. Feliciano stayed 9 years in jail while he lived in Cuba under Castro. He believes he came here for justice -- and all he found was oppression of a new form. He stopped eating four days ago just to call attention to the firings and the threats. After not eating since April 5 because she wanted justice at her work, Isabel Montalvo was rushed to the hospital on Saturday. The University hires and contracts with UNICCO. The University can tell UNICCO to stop illegal intimidation at any time.

We need to escalate now because the clock is ticking. UNICCO’s website states that all they plan to do is to wait for the summer when students leave. UNICCO and the University administration believe that they can wait us out until finals start. That is why we must act now! Students shut down university business for 13 hours, and leaders of faith - from synagogues to churches and more - shut down US1 and subjected themselves to arrest. We did this to force the university and UNICCO to stop violations of civil and human rights at UM and to find a fair process. As a result of this action, President Shalala agreed to sponsor a meeting between UNICCO, SEIU, elected reps of the work force, students and faculty. We participated in good faith in those meetings, but it is clear that UNICCO and UM did not. UNICCO’s tactic to drag this out as long as possible means that there will be no recourse of justice for people like Zoila, Feliciano, or Isabel. The hunger strike is in response to the utter disregard for dignity and respect, and to the utter failure of the promises made by Shalala. If we stop now there are UNICCO workers who will see their support base disappear. They will become invisible again. 168 people who stopped working four weeks ago (simply so that they would not be harassed on the job by a company who consistently refuses to obey the law) will be picked off one by one without recourse to justice. No one should lose their ability to support their family because they choose to organize. If we stop now no one will hear their voices, no one will respect their decision. Friends (both employees and students) are risking their livelihoods and health for something so much greater than the four hundred families, but for the protection of workers rights at UM. This is where we step up to the challenge of being the third poorest city in the United States. Our hearts are in this.

There are only simple requests to meet. We request a way to organize that does not allow the great deal of real terror to hang loose over workers’ heads. We request a method free of the illegal tactics that have occurred systematically and recurrently throughout our university. The university claims that this is only a conflict of process over card check elections vs. NLRB elections. But the truth is that 90% of UNICCO’s unionized janitors in America joined through card check elections. A fair process could be found with both parties if UM and UNICCO are serious about engaging each other. Donna Shalala needs to stop defending UNICCO, and start protecting civil rights at UM. We believe these requests, denied at the expense of ours and our friends’ health, are not dramatic ones -- but reasonable and moral requests. They are just requests.

We will not be ignored. Enough is enough. No more firings, no more threats.

Stop Shielding UNICCO, start standing up
for the Rights & Dignity of those who keep our campuses clean.
Visit “Freedom City” (Ponce & Stanford)
Community events/actions every night at 8:00 PM
Rally 1:30 at UC Patio on Wednesday

1 comment:

Randy said...

Hello from Boston. I'll be joining your companeros from UM and SEIU local 615 in a fast in front of Unicco Northeast Region HQ. Harvard students and staff will be doing something on campus in nearby Cambridge. I plan several photo updates during the day.