After a sit-in, hunger strikes and a nine-week walkout, janitors at the University of Miami decided yesterday to return to work, as the university's cleaning contractor reached a settlement with the Service Employees International Union.
For theService Employees International Union it was a major win against a big U.S. janitorial.
A statement from Students for a New Democracy (STAND) put it this way,
"For those that remain unclear, this means basically one thing: we have won. We fought for the workers’ right to make their own decision under reasonably fair and democratic circumstances; we fought against UNICCO’s and the University’s insistence that only a (deeply flawed) NLRB secret ballot election was acceptable. We fought for the workers’ rights to organize in a safe environment and to choose their own electoral process, and despite vicious, almost-unrelenting, well-funded and well-publicized opposition, we won. We won, we won, we won. Or, more appropriately, the workers won, and we share their victory."
The following is an announcement from the SEIU.
Victory for Janitors at University of Miami is Second Win in a Week for Service Workers Uniting for Improvements at Major U.S. Campuses
Nearly 1,000 Faculty from Over 100 Universities Nationwide Signed Petition To Pressure Administration at UM
WASHINGTON - May 2 - Coming on the heels of a similar victory for janitors last week at Georgetown, 450 poverty-wage janitors at the University of Miami won an agreement yesterday that gives them the right to form a union and raise living standards for their families.
The agreement came after a two-month strike by hundreds of service workers at the UM, a 17-day hunger strike by 10 UM janitors and 6 UM students, and an outpouring of support from students, faculty, and religious leaders, as well as national leaders like former U.S. Senator John Edwards.
In a major national outreach effort to university faculty, nearly 1,000 professors from nearly 200 colleges and universities across the country – from UCLA to Yale, UT-Austin to the University of Michigan -- signed a petition to UM President and former U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala.
“This victory for workers at UM is a victory for workers throughout Florida and beyond,” said UM professor Jane Connolly. “Low-wage workers at other colleges and universities have been watching this struggle closely and will likely follow suit. My conversations with faculty across the country indicate that workers will have their strong support, just as they have had at UM.”
In addition to the University of Miami and Georgetown, other universities where there are now ongoing movements by students and faculty to improve conditions for service workers include Harvard and the University of Virginia.
UNICCO, the national company that has the cleaning contract at the University of Miami, agreed to a process to verify that a majority of its workers are interested in forming a union with SEIU. Under the agreement, once a neutral arbitrator has independently verified that 60 percent of the janitors working for UNICCO have signed cards saying they want to form a union with SEIU, UNICCO will recognize SEIU as the janitors’ union.
At Georgetown, cleaning contractor P&R Enterprises signed a similar agreement last week allowing janitors to organize through a majority sign-up process after university administrators stepped in on workers’ behalf.
In their petition to Shalala, faculty urged her to “bear your skills as a leader and an administrator in order immediately to resolve the strike… At stake are two core principles with far-reaching implications for tens of thousands of contract workers at institutions of higher education across the country: the basic right to stand up for a better life and choose to form a union free from intimidation or the threat of firing, and the ethical and moral responsibility of all institutions of higher learning to hold their contractors accountable for their actions, and to ensure contractors cannot break the law and violate their employees’ basic rights without consequences.”