Saturday, March 23, 2013

Article in the Huffington Post on campus workers' wages calls out UM by name

A great article in the Huffington Post about the appalling level of wages for workers on campuses in the US:

"Very few low-wage workers on American campuses even earn a poverty-level income, let alone receive health benefits. Many work only nine or 10 months a year and are often barred from receiving unemployment benefits during the few summer months they are unemployed. Yet their work is an essential ingredient of college life; without them, campuses couldn't function," Eisenberg wrote in one of many dead-on statements in the post.

He added: "It is in part the result of our growing class divide, in which blue-collar and low-level service workers are granted little or no respect and are treated accordingly. The fact that so many of these workers are members of minority groups taps into lingering negative attitudes about immigrant workers and people of color. Moreover, many colleges have become big businesses, reflecting corporate values: management efficiency, top-down decision making, a wide divide between top salaries and those of the lowest-paid workers, and trustees who care little about academic matters but a great deal about finances and fund raising."

Eisenberg mentions UM in particular:

"At Georgetown University, an undergraduate-led living-wage coalition won a victory over a recalcitrant university administration. At Harvard and the University of Miami, pressure from students and unions prompted the institutions to raise the wages of both their direct and contract employees, yet the negotiations were protracted and painful. During the struggles, students at Harvard pointed out that the university at the time had a $19-billion endowment. At Miami, President Donna Shalala enjoyed a $500,000-plus salary and a large university house."

The assertion regarding UM is correct but not, unfortunately, the end of the story. At Picketline, the fight to bring economic justice to more than 200 janitors at UM was our raison d'ĂȘtre. We lived this fight until these proud workers got a measure of justice. The victory was, however, incomplete because not all low-wage workers were made whole by this fight.

More than 200 food service workers continue to earn to this day poverty wages with inadequate benefits. In fact, the only way many of them get by is by tapping into public assistance like Section 8 for rent, food stamps and other welfare subsidies. At one of the nation's wealthiest universities, where its administrators are handsomely rewarded, it is just not right.

That food service workers live like this is a shame for all of us at UM. That is why we must fight for economic justice for our food service workers. It is a fight we must wage now. We don't have a moment to waste.

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