[Marxism] University of Miami Janitors

Michael Hoover hooverm at scc-fl.edu
Sat Mar 18 10:24:09 MST 2006

Miami Herald
Posted on Thu, Mar. 16, 2006	
UM to raise wages of janitors, groundskeepers by at least 25 percent

University of Miami will raise the minimum wages of its contract employees, including striking janitors and groundskeepers, by at least 25 percent, according to a new policy that will apply to about 900 workers.

Some UM janitors and other workers have been on strike for three weeks, in a effort led by the Service Employees' International Union, which is trying to organize the employees of Unicco Service Co. While union leaders cheered President Donna Shalala's decision to raise the floor of wages for the workers, they said the strike against Unicco over unfair labor practices will continue.

Under the new policy, the university will raise its current base hourly pay from $6.40 an hour, the current state minimum wage, to take effect immediately. The new minimum pay for food service workers will be $8 an hour; housekeepers will make $8.55 an hour, and landscapers will make at least $9.30 an hour.

Compensation will also be adjusted for years on the job and merit.

Health care benefits, including medical, dental and vision plans, will also be offered to the workers.

The Board of Trustees has already approved the policy, which will apply immediately to all current contracts -- some workers will see pay increases as soon as Sunday -- and to all future university contractors, University President Donna Shalala said in a interview on Thursday.

''We are going to lead the market,'' Shalala said, adding that this wasn't a policy just for Unicco, but for all of its contractors. The policy, she said, was in response what the university had heard from the community -- including faculty, students, religious leaders and the union.

The university has maintained that it was a neutral party in the labor dispute. Three weeks ago, though, it set up a working group to study the wage and benefits issue.

''This is very much in response to our community,'' Shalala said. ``Our neutrality has never been about pay or health care -- it's been about the union.''

''This is a very fortunate resolution,'' said Unicco spokesman Doug Bailey, who added its workers would get the higher pay starting Sunday.

Union spokeswoman Renee Asher said while this was an ''incredible'' payoff for the workers and the community that supported them, the strike would continue.

''It's an incredible step,'' she said. ``But it's halfway. Now you have the university saying they have some responsibility, but the workers still want to have a say.''

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