FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, August 5, 2010
CLEANERS, LANDSCAPERS AT THE UNIVERSITY OF MIAMI REJECT PROPOSAL FOR NEW CONTRACT
– 4 Years Ago Workers Won First Union Contract after a 9-Week Strike –
Miami Beach, FL—Contract talks between the cleaners and groundskeepers at the University of Miami and the Boston based UNICCO remained far apart today as the cleaning contractor put forth unfair and unacceptable freezes on wages, health care, and other benefits that the nearly 400 workers and their families rely on to make ends meet.
“The cleaners and landscapers who keep the University of Miami clean cannot accept a wage freeze when the cost of living in Miami keeps going up,” said Eric Brakken, Florida Director of 32BJ. “We must make sure that working people can live in the city where they work.”
In the four years since the last contract, the consumer price index in the Miami-Ft. Lauderdale area jumped an 8.2 percent. The cost of housing, food and other everyday items is up more than 9 percent.
“We need these raises to be able to live in this expensive city,” says Guido Fluriel, a cleaner who works at the Sylvester Cancer Center at the University of Miami. “Times are tough and the cost of living is still going up.”
The bargaining committee, represented by 32BJ SEIU, is looking for fair wage increases, maintained health care coverage and more paid sick days in the new contract. Under the current contract, the workers receive employer-paid health care, and the starting wages for cleaners are $9.05 an hour, but despite the increasing cost of living in Miami, UNICCO’s proposal offered an across the board wages and benefits freeze.
In the spring of 2006, cleaners at the University of Miami held a nine-week strike because of substandard pay, lack of health benefits and workplace safety issues. The strike ended with recognition of the workers’ union, which ultimately led to a union contract that increased wages and provided health care and other benefits.
With more than 120,000 members in eight states and Washington, D.C., including South Florida, 32BJ is the largest property services union in the country.