Today is a big day in the UM's food service workers’ fight for economic justice.
First, the workers started the day with a meeting of support from campus groups, including students and faculty. Shortly after, they announced their social media presence with a launch of a Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/WeCaneDoBetter, to begin to tell the world their stories.
The workers have also deployed the hashtag #WeCaneDoBetter to amplify their campaign's story on Twitter.
Many workers, like Renato Garcia and Nicole Tanea Berry, say they would like a voice in the workplace, which they feel is best achieved through unionization. SEIU 32BJ has been assisting the food service workers in their struggle for economic justice, campaigning for family-sustaining wages and benefits to begin to life them above the poverty line.
The UM Cafeteria/Chartwells are fighting for respect and a voice in the workplace. They want better hours, better pay, and better benefits. Many of the workers say they make so little money and get such poor benefits that they have to rely on welfare to get healthcare and food stamps to get food.
Currently full-time Chartwells workers, most of them African-Americans, make as little as $10,000/year. Landscaping and janitorial staff employed by UNICCO on campus, who unionized through SEIU 32BJ after a long fight in 2006, earn on average $24,000 with health insurance.
By turning poverty-wage jobs into family-sustaining jobs during tough economic times, 32BJ SEIU--the nation’s largest property service union--is helping reclaim the dream of middle-class life for many in our communities.
UM is the second biggest employer in Miami, one of the poorest and most unequal cities in the nation, with one of the highest costs of living. What is the University of Miami's responsibility to the city and to the community of workers who serve it and its students? It’s certainly not to exploit workers, as it’s doing through its contracting practices.
In Miami today, taxpayers are subsidizing a tax-exempt multi-million dollar University whose contractors pay poverty wages and provide so little or no employment or health benefits that they force workers to rely on public assistance for vital needs such as healthcare, housing costs and food stamps for themselves and their families.
This is an injustice not just for the workers and their families, but for taxpayers who pay double every time workers rely upon a social program for a benefit they should have through his or her job.