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University of Miami

Miami, FL

Group name: Students Toward A New Democracy (STAND) Website: http://www.standum.org
Contact: Alyssa Cundari Email: fairy1501(at)aol.com, standum(at)gmail.com
Phone: 630-606-8576 See also:
http://picketline.blogspot.com - supportive faculty site
http://www.yeswecane.org - SEIU's site

Campaign background: Students involved with STAND are organizing in solidarity with UNICCO janitors. Many of the janitors being paid poverty wages without basic benefits. For these and other reasons, the janitors are organizing! They're working with SEIU local 11, and are taking actions to demand better wages and benefits without even having the protection of official union representation. STAND members are demanding that the university's President Donna Shalala (former member of the Clinton administration) commits to neutrality in the union organizing process and put an end to union-busting tactics used by UNICCO and the university.

On February 28, 2006, UMiami janitors and groundskeepers began a strike demanding living wages, healthcare, and the right to organize. Students first took action in solidarity with the strikers by presenting demands to President Shalala and organizing a march of hundreds of people. In an effort to appease strikers, Shalala agreed to a slight wage increase and improved healthcare; however, Shalala continued to ignore the core issue of workers' right to organize free from intimidation — they demanded a card check, a process fairer and more democratic than the so-called secret ballot elections argued for by the university. (More on card check)

Students continued to escalate, occupying their admissions office for over 12 hours in late March. Then in early April, 10 students joined 10 janitors on a hunger strike, setting up a tent city called "Freedom Village" outside the main entrance to campus. Students and janitors continued their actions throughout April. Students camped out at the main entrance to Ashe, the building that houses both admission and Shalala's office, effectively shutting down the entrance 24 hours a day for over a week.

Finally, in the last week of April, Shalala began changing her position in public statements. She said the university would allow the janitors to unionize by card check, and promised the university would not cut the UNICCO contract just because the union is allowed to form (two statements demanded by janitors, students, and faculty for years). Just days later, on May 1, UNICCO and SEIU announced they'd agreed to a card check process in which 60% of janitors would have to re-sign union authorization cards by August 2006. Victory!

Now, in summer 2006, students are planning next steps as janitors move towards negotiating their first union contract!

Campaigns News & Updates:

May 2, 2006 - UM janitors end 2-month strike - The Miami Herald

Apr 23, 2006 - Shalala Says UM Will Not Demand Union Election - CBS 4 Miami

Apr 18, 2006 - Anger rises on both sides of strike at University of Miami - The New York Times

Mar 29, 2006 - Miami students hold sit-in to support striking janitors - The Boston Globe

Mar 28, 2006 - UM students stage sit-in at administration building in support of janitors... - The Miami Herald

Mar 16, 2006 - Striking Janitors: University Announcement a Victory, But No Guarantee of Improvements - Yahoo! Finance

Mar 10, 2006 - Teach in last night - posted by Liza of STAND

Mar 5, 2006 - UM Students/Janitors March with Striking UNICCO Workers to Protest Unfair Labor Practices - Miami Indymedia

Mar 1, 2006 - Fired University of Miami Janitor leads Strike over benefits - The Orlando Sentinel

Mar 1, 2006 - While Shalala lives in luxury, Janitors struggle - The Miami Herald

Feb 27, 2006 - UM janitors vote to strike - The Miami Herald - "Janitors at the University of Miami authorized a strike Sunday against the Boston-based company that hires them to clean UM's dorms, classrooms and grounds. The workers' lack of healthcare and their wages -- some of the lowest in any major U.S. university -- have garnered unflattering national attention for the university."

Feb 24, 2006 - Video from the Strike Vote - STAND's website

Feb 22, 2006 - Janitors at University of Miami to Hold Strike Authorization Vote... - PR Newswire - "The janitors at the University of Miami will vote to decide whether to authorize a strike over unfair labor practices... Janitors at the campus earn as little as $6.40 an hour and are not provided with health insurance."

Jan 8, 2006 - Corporate interests vs. workers' dignity - The Miami Herald

Dec 20, 2005 - Union Boosters - The Miami Herald - "A group of University of Miami students has taken campus activism into a more confrontational direction -- trying to help unionize the workers who clean the school but don't make a living wage."

Nov 22, 2005 - UMiami students STAND with UNICCO workers! - LWAC campus tour update

Apr 3, 2001 - How Much Should Colleges Pay Their Janitors? - The Chronicle of Higher Education - This article discusses a study that showed UMiami pays its janitors the second-lowest wages of all colleges in the country.

 

Have something to add about this campaign? Please e-mail us at
lwac(at)livingwageaction.org

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