[fla-left] Gainesville's May Day focuses on labor (fwd)

Michael Hoover hoov at SPAMfreenet.tlh.fl.us
Thu May 4 22:01:20 MDT 2000

In light of current struggle at Ohio State, note comment by UF spokes-
person in last paragraph of below article about university outsourcing
custodial work...

While colleges/universities have outsourced bookstore/food services for
years, last decade - characterized by managerial restructuring, 'cost
containment,' accountability, 'academic capitalism,' etc. - has
witnessed spread to many areas: custodial/maintenance, groundskeeping,
printing, housing operations, purchasing, security, facilities management,
communication/business/computing services, campus mail delivery.

Unsurprisingly, privatization has resulted in displaced workers,
pay cuts, declining morale.  Significantly, a number of collective
bargaining contracts contain provisions that give administrators
considerable discretion to subcontract work.    Michael Hoover
---------- Forwarded message ----------
Tuesday, May 2, 2000

Gainesville's May Day focuses on labor

[Gainesville] Sun staff writer

May Day in Gainesville's Downtown Plaza was all red flags and purple hair.
College-age anarchists passed out leaflets, the crowd applauded local
anti-IMF protesters and someone erected a banner featuring a black cat
holding a monkey wrench.

Alberta Hopkins -- 48-year-old grandmother and church member at Landmark
Holy Temple -- might seem an unlikely hero for these young activists.

Hopkins cleans floors and empties trash cans at the Particle Science
Building at the University of Florida for $6.75 an hour. She doesn't want
to work nights, nor do many of her co-workers. Their campaign to keep
working an early morning shift has become something of a cause celebre for
campus activists.

"This night shift is an attempt to make us invisible during the day,"
Hopkins said. "They tell us the faculty and staff want it, but we haven't
heard any complaints."

UF has been slowly increasing the ranks of its custodial night shift since
late 1998, when university officials decided that a new physics building
should be cleaned at night. University officials said night cleanup is more
efficient because custodial workers don't have to work around classes that
are in session.

"It takes a lot more labor to clean a classroom while class is in session,"
said Dug Jones, assistant director of UF's physical plant. According to
Jones, UF's night shift workers clean 25,000 square feet of building per
person per night -- more than 3,000 square feet more than workers who are
on the old 5 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. shift.

A UF study in 1998 shows that UF's custodians clean less floor space, per
person, per night, than workers at 19 other major universities. All those
universities have custodial staffs who work at night. Jones said night
shifts are "the industry standard."

"Five in the morning to 1 in the afternoon is kind of an odd shift," Jones
said. "Our feedback was typically people calling to say, 'Can you have my
shift done before 8 a.m., when classes start.' "

But UF's employee union says the night shift is bad for workers' health and
potentially ruinous for their families.

"We're talking about people who start at $12,800 a year," said Sharon
Bauer, spokeswoman for the American Federation of State, County, and
Municipal Employees, Local 3340. "A lot of these people have to have two
jobs, and the night shift means they have to look for a new second job."

Hopkins said the night shift presents child care problems, too.  "I have to
keep my grandchild sometimes," she said. "And it's pretty hard to find
somebody to keep a baby at night."

Hopkins said the night shift is also more dangerous for the largely female
work force.

Jones, however, said the 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. shift isn't much more
inconvenient than the present shift.

"With the current shift, they have the same problems," he said. Jones said
night workers haven't faced any serious security problems since the shift
began, and he said day care is also difficult for workers on the present

Both sides have collected evidence to show that their approach has the
support of the faculty. In surveys of faculty members conducted in March
1999 and March of this year -- faculty members responded "yes" more than 80
percent of the time when asked if the night shift workers were "meeting
(their) needs." Some faculty members wrote negative comments about the
switch to night shift in their 1999 survey forms, but none wrote them on
this years' forms.

AFSCME, on the other hand, has waged an e-mail campaign against the shift,
and has circulated a petition asking for an end to the night shift. They
say they have collected hundreds of signatures from students and faculty.

"I don't know how many I've collected today, but they've got hundreds,"
said Mark Piotrowski, a UF staffer and member of the Alachua County Labor
Party. Piotrowski collected signatures at a Labor Party table at the May
Day rally Monday.

"I've got a copy of the petition on my door, and I hand it out to people,"
said graduate sociology student Candi Churchill. "As a student, I don't
want people to have to work these horrible hours. There's no reason for it."

Jones said AFSCME is misleading the public by depicting the move to nights
as a mandatory shift that will be done all at once.

"We've moved two groups of 40 to the shift, and we plan to move a couple
more," he said. "Anyone who doesn't want the night shift can ask to be
switched to another building."

The move to the night shift, Jones said, may be needed to keep the
university from having to switch to private contractors for its custodial

"If it costs the university $1.05 per square foot and the private company
can do it for 95 cents, they may go with the private company," he said. "I
don't want to represent that a specific threat has been made, but we have
to be good stewards of the state's money, whether we're buying chemicals in
bulk or setting up a staff."

Tim Lockette can be reached at 374-5088 or lockett at villesun.com .

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