Wednesday, May 01, 2013

In His service: a letter to President Shalala from South Florida clergy

Here is a letter delivered today, May 1st 2013, to the University of Miami's President, Donna Shalala, from a large group of South Florida clergy and faith leaders.
Dear Donna Shalala:

We, members of a diverse group of religious congregations committed to promoting social justice in our communities in Miami-Dade, are again calling on you and the University of Miami Board of Trustees to stop the oppressive practices of your food service vendor, Chartwells Dinning Services – a unit of Compass Group USA – against the University of Miami cafeteria workers. It has come to our attention that Chartwells, since agreeing last week to card check for workers for the purpose of choosing 32BJ SEIU as their bargaining unit, has engaged in unprecedented and aggressive anti-union campaign- including captive audience meetings - to deceive and dissuade workers from making this fundamental and federally - protected choice. We want you to know that if Chartwells succeeds in this effort, we will hold the University of Miami responsible for allowing this to happen.

The Chartwells workers are mostly African-American and they make as little as $9.31 per hour, or about $10,000 a year. They often have to rely on public subsidies for food, health care, housing and cash support in order to live on what they make working at the University of Miami. In fact, Dr. Shalala, these African-American workers are some of the lowest paid workers at the University of Miami.

Dr. Shalala, please know that we will not accept any explanation that tries so slough off Chartwells’ conduct in this matter as the actions of a private entity. The way we receive the contractor’s auctions is that it is acting as agent and proxy of the University of Miami in an aggressive action against the interests of members of our Miami Dade communities. If it should come to pass that Chartwells succeeds in this deception, then, from every pulpit, every street corner and every engine of communication available to us, we will let the world know what the University of Miami and its leaders have done here not just to our African American brothers and sister, but to our communities.

As we told you in our previous letter, we believe good jobs create strong communities. In Miami-Dade, what we need are good jobs that pay living wages with benefits, where workers have dignity and a voice in the workplace. As the city’s largest employer and its most vibrant economic engine, the University of Miami set the standards that other private employers follow. The University of Miami food service jobs, as presently constituted, are not good jobs. In fact, these jobs deepen the poverty and raise the misery quotient in our Miami-Dade Communities.

Telling the University of Miami cafeteria workers to be satisfied with poverty wages is not the best way for you to be a part of our communities. We are watching and we will not stand by.

In His Service,

South Florida Clergy

(signed names listed) 
This picture was taken when a group of clergy came to UM to deliver a letter to President Shalala on April 2, 2013. The President did not receive them at the time. 


Jeff Donnelly said...

The University of Miami should adopt a living wage policy, both for itself and for its vendors. The University is among the largest private employers in the region; it also generally attracts multiple vendors.

Anonymous said...

As little as $9.31/hr., huh... last time I checked that's $1.06 more than I got paid for the last 2 hourly jobs I worked. That's what you get paid when you work a job that literally any person with a reasonably functioning brain and two hands can perform. Minimum wage. How about you thank the University of Miami for willingly employing people who can barely perform the simplest of tasks. Half the employees at Chartwells are actually mentally incapacitated and can barely stand on their own two feet let alone be trusted to prepare sub-par food for students who pay more than $50,000 per year in tuition and board for an education at an institution which is ranked as a top 50 university nationally. I have seen Chartwells employees aimlessly walking around talking to themselves, cleaning tables that have already been cleaned over and over, openly discussing extremely inappropriate subjects while working a shift, and treating students with contempt and disrespect. I have spoken with Chartwells employees who can barely speak. I have met Chartwells employees who no rational person would ever hire for any job anywhere. It is that bad. There are certainly EXCEPTIONS to these generalizations (such as Betty, she is one of the friendliest women I have met since I've been in Miami), but overall, paying some of these people $9.31 when Chartwells could probably EMPLOY STUDENTS TO DO A BETTER JOB FOR LESS is CHARITY for this community, NOT INJUSTICE. If these people were qualified to work anywhere else they would find jobs somewhere else. They're not, and the University of Miami gives them steady employment and a paycheck even though nobody else would. South Florida Clergy, go home.

Keith jones said...

'Oh my Fuher, to what is in our hearts?'

Good thing you chose to keep your vile thoughts shrouded in anonymity