Friday, April 28, 2006

Why the students are no longer camping in front of Ashe

This is a letter by STAND student Liza Alwes explaining the decision of the students camping outside of Ashe to pick up their tents:

As you may have noticed, we have moved the tents from the front of the Ashe Building. We did this in response to a "Dialogue" email sent out [April 26] by President Shalala.

Although the language of the email is subtle, we believe it represents a solid step forward. In reference to options for the union vote process – card check, secret ballot, or a third process – President Shalala writes, "the University will not take a position of endorsing one process over another as to how the contract employees make that determination." President Shalala has not always stuck to total neutrality regarding the different methods of unionization, so we are glad to see a move back in the direction of true neutrality – that is, the willingness to accept any legal method of collective decision for or against unionization. [cont'd in first comment]


fwj said...

She continues to say that, "We are strongly encouraging both the Service Employees International Union and UNICCO Service Company to jointly come to a resolution of this issue." The last time the University brought all parties together to come to a decision, the process was abandoned after only two meetings. Since then, there has been little communication. It seems that the only roadblock in the way of a mutually acceptable solution is the lack of communication, so we are happy to see that President Shalala is reaffirming her commitment to promote communication so that this problem can find a good resolution.

President Shalala also writes that, "We review and select our outside service contractors only on the basis of quality of service and competitiveness." This appears to mean that, should UNICCO employees become unionized when given the opportunity to make a democratic choice, the University will accept their decision and will not cut its contract with UNICCO. We remind the university community that there is more than one way to be competitive: companies can treat their workers with humanity, which is a truly valuable quality, and very competitive in this age of poverty wages, outsourcing, declining health care availability, and growing socioeconomic inequality.

She adds, finally, that, "As with anyone with whom we do business, we expect them to obey the law." Certainly, this goes without saying, but we appreciate her saying it anyway.

In conclusion, we thank President Shalala for her sensitive letter, and its affirmation that she and UM are committed to:

1. Maintain genuine neutrality regarding whether or not UNICCO employees decide to unionize, and how such a decision is made, so long as they are treated with fairness and within the law.

2. Promote communication between UNICCO and the union: this has already gone on too long, and it is good to see that the University is committed to finding a quick and positive solution.

3. Keep the contract with UNICCO if its workers unionize, so long as they keep up their quality of service and are competitive by the standards of a university that values human rights and democracy, as well as clean floors and beautiful grounds.

4. Hold its contractors to the dictates of the law: that is, if UNICCO has done some of the things alleged by the NLRB complaint against it, we would expect the University to hold them accountable.

We should all thank President Shalala for these renewed commitments. Additionally, we should expect her to stand by them. The step forward that was represented by her "Dialogue" email yesterday is an important one that UM cannot afford to abandon. We encourage you to contact President Shalala to let her know that you appreciate her message and hope her future policy will reflect the admirable promise in this last email. The President's email is; her phone is 305 284 5155. We eagerly await a fair and honorable resolution to the workers' strike.

In peace,

student advocate said...

I commend these students who have sacrificed a lot for a cause they believe in. They have acted with more honor than the president and the administration of their university has.
unfortunately, the trust they put in the president shalala's word was misplaced. yesterday's newspaper had a full page ad in which UM clearly advocates for a secret ballot election. moreover, the way in which they advocate for it insinuates that the union does not want "democracy." this to me, is clearly an ad meant to bust the union's efforts and subsequently, squash workers' rights.
this is a far cry from neutrality.
my suggestion for the students: if you are considering moving your tents back to campus, put them in a place that is more visible to the public. for example, across from the workers' tents on US 1. There is a beautiful grass area just behind UM's campus sign. that would be a lovely place for you. if you'd like, since i work on campus, i can check to make sure there are no sprinklers. your tent suburb would make a lovely addition to the campus ecology come graduation.
keep up the good fight!
ps. i would sign my name, but fear retaliation from um's administration.