“Can you live on $6.30 an hour?” read one sign as University of Miami students and faculty joined janitors and local clergy in a demonstration along U.S. Route 1 outside the campus Nov. 10.
The demonstration was part of an intense union organizing drive with SEIU. Students Toward a New Democracy (STAND) supports the drive, which is aimed at improving the wages, benefits, and treatment of those who maintain a clean, healthy, safe environment in our classrooms, offices and throughout the university. UM janitorial services are contracted out to UNICCO, a corporation that is notorious for low wages, no benefits, and disrespectful treatment of janitorial workers.
Imagine that janitors who have been with the university for years earn less than $7 an hour. These workers make it possible to pursue the mission of this eminent university, yet don’t earn a living wage. They clean our prestigious medical school, but don’t have health benefits.
UNICCO claims they can’t pay higher wages or provide benefits unless the university agrees. The university is mum. Both had better pay attention, because this effort isn’t going to go away. The demonstration struck a chord. Drivers held up the evening commute to read our signs, but even in a city notorious for impatience on the road, the only honking horns were those of support. Stay tuned!