This report comes to us from the Campus Worker Justice Tour, a series of visits to campuses around the country where students and workers are fighting back against corporate outsourcing and the exploitation of campus workers.
By Javier Figueroa, student at the University of Miami
Six years ago, students and workers brought the University of Miami to its knees, achieving an unprecedented victory for student-worker power in the South. As the hunger strike came to an end and the chants of “si se puede” transformed to cries of “si se pudo,” UNICCO workers won the justice they deserved and the power of a union. In 2006, janitors making $6.40/hour united together to demand fair wages and a fair contract. For over a year, the campus community rallied behind the workers to demand justice, and after a sit-in, a hunger strike, and a nine-week walk out, they won health benefits and fair wages in a strong union contract.
Today another group of workers on our campus face the same struggle, and like their UNICCO brethren before them, Chartwells workers at the University of Miami are standing up and fighting back. These workers, like Miss Ida who has been serving the university for 16 years, have grown tired of the disrespect and unfairness they have faced from Chartwells. In 2006 Students Toward a New Democracy (a USAS affiliate) fought alongside UNICCO workers, culminating with a sit-in in President Donna Shalala’s office followed by a hunger strike. Now we again stand in solidarity with our campus workers’ struggle.
Not much has changed in six years: the university still maintains its position of indifference to the issues of workers who are often invisible on our campuses. But like before, workers and students have not let the university’s intransigence weaken their will. Every day, workers are organizing and growing stronger and STAND is out on campus building support for the workers in their path to form a union.
We know the struggles that Chartwells workers face are not exclusive to the University of Miami or to Miami itself. Workers all around the nation are fighting injustice every day; we have seen the power of organized workers with teachers in Chicago, with warehouses workers in Illinois and California, and with farmworkers all around the nation. Here in Miami we are part of a nationwide movement for student and worker power. We stand with students across the country in United Students Against Sweatshops, because we know that when we fight together, we win together!