Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Going Super-NOVA

Here's some information about the situation of the UNICCO janitors at Nova Southeastern University.

There will be a COMMUNITY MEETING with janitors from Nova and community members. Building on the success at the University of Miami, janitors at Nova and community members are meeting to discuss how to improve pay, win affordable health insurance, and create a better life for working families at Nova and Broward County. You are warmly invited to attend.

Monday June 15 at 4:00pm
(Reception at 3:30pm)
St. MauriceCatholic Church
2851 Stirling Road, Dania
The situation of the janitors at NOVA is comparable to that of the janitors at UM prior to their strike. Here are some personal stories:

Trinidad Espinoza, UNICCO Janitor at Nova Southeastern University

Trinidad, 45, has worked as a janitor for UNICCO at Nova Southeastern University for the past 3 years. She goes to work at 6 p.m. and works until 2:30 a.m., getting paid $7.25 an hour and does not receive health insurance. She does some part-time work on the side to try to make ends meet, but it is still not enough.

Trinidad can’t buy very much. "Everything in my apartment has been a gift from someone because we can’t buy anything. The fridge is empty." She spends less than $200 a month on groceries and buys lentils and other beans to feed her two daughters. "You just can’t justify that," she said.

She frequently cleans the auditoriums at the university. "After some of the luncheons, they leave behind sirloin steaks for us to throw away. We’re throwing out this incredible food knowing we have nothing in the house."

Trinidad’s difficulties don’t end there. She’s packing her bags because she can no longer afford the $600 a month one bedroom apartment where she and her daughters live. She’s very concerned. "Taking my daughters to a less expensive area is going to be dangerous."

Diana Marcela, Trinidad’s 16 year-old daughter suffers from migraines. But Trinidad can’t take her to the doctor because she doesn’t have health insurance or the money to pay the doctors’ bills. "My downstairs neighbor will bring up some pills for the pain, but what Diana needs is to see a doctor so we can get to the root of her problem."
"For us it would be a triumph to win union representation after so much humiliation -- the triumph of being able to go to a doctor, and having food in the fridge, as all families should have."

Nora Bermann, UNICCO Janitor at Nova Southeastern University

"We want to feel supported. The cost of living has increased greatly and our wages are not enough."

Nora, 57, has worked as a janitor for UNICCO at Nova Southeastern University for the past 10 years. She goes to work at 6 p.m. and works until 2:30 a.m., getting paid $7.25 an hour. To make ends meet, she works seven days a week, working not only one but two part-time jobs.

Even while working three jobs, she can’t afford her own place to live. She rents a room in a shared house, with most of her remaining income going towards food, a phone, and car payments. She is able to cobble together enough money to pay a monthly health insurance premium. But it’s a low-cost policy that comes with co-pays and out-of-pocket expenses: "I still have to pay when I go see a doctor. I pay over $180 when I need to get some tests done."
Nora says she is part of the campaign by Nova janitors to form a union with SEIU so that she and her co-workers can win a better life. "Winning a union would be a great triumph. We’d be able to get better salaries so that we could pay for our basic necessities. We’d have health insurance and be protected by the union from the many abuses of the company."

Nora, a widow, has survived a hurricane in which she lost everything. "Not even a chair was left." In a city plagued by hurricanes and with a cost of living that keeps rising, she wants to see the work of janitors like herself and her co-workers rewarded with more than just an occasional small raise. "You just can’t live so many years with the same miniscule salary...It is through our sweat and tears that they [UNICCO] have filled their pockets with money. They should at least pay us better."


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