Please come to the Green Economy Panel on Tuesday March 30th in Shideler Hall from 7-9pm. We will discuss how we can build an environmentally sustainable economy that provides good living wage jobs to support all workers and communities.
Panelists for the event include:
Robert Park, Cincinnati Blue-Green Alliance
Bryan McGannon, Repower America
Elisa Young, Meigs Citizens Action Now
Dan La Botz, Labor activist and author
This event is co-sponsored by Green Oxford and the Fair Labor Action Coalition and supported by the Western Inquiry Center. The Green Economy Panel is a Coal Week Event. See coalweek.org for more great events throughout the week!
Happy Holidays! If you are lucky enough to have a job or access to education and the opportunity to have some winter vacation time, I would encourage you to take an hour to increase your economic and political literacy. We are in a time of severe stratification and economic crisis, yet our government continue to misrepresent the needs of the working class, deny the rights of people facing race, gender, class, sexuality, age, and ability-based oppression, blame our unions for the problems rooted in corporate greed, and pathologize low-income families and unemployed folks. If you are not outraged, check out the resources below to learn more. We must educate ourselves on what matters because our education system and mainstream media are NOT going to do it for us. If ever there has been a time to raise some hell, the time is now! Complacency is not an option.
The Working Group on Extreme Inequality has released a new report on the nature of economic inequality in the United States, why it matters and what we can do about it. A couple examples; 23.5% of total US income goes to the top 1% of American households (this stratifaction has been INCREASING since 1976) and the income gap between white and black Americans has decreased only 3 cents on the dollar since 1968., putting us on track to achieve racial income equality in 537 years…
Check out the blog “Poverty and Policy” for regular analysis on how US policy affects working class and unemployed Americans.
Watch a short video to understand why official unemployment numbers actually miss millions of unemployed workers.
As you may have noticed, Students for Staff has undergone some changes recently and we are claiming a new name: Fair Labor Action Coalition (FLAC). This change reflects the diversity of labor issues we are now addressing from a local to a national scale, our desire to emphasize coalition building, and our renewed commitment to meet the challenges posed by the economic crisis.
Specifically, we will continue to work with Miami staff to place pressure on the administration to negotiate a fair contract with decent wages and benefits. However, we will also work in coalition with the bus drivers who are employed by the notoriously anti-labor company First Student and are currently negotiating their first union contract. In addition, grad student workers and professors are finding their labor rights threatened by the way Miami has handled budget cuts. Bringing the voices of these workers into our actions will strengthen our movement as a whole. Finally, we recognize that many of the labor issues in Oxford are connected with regional and national policies and economic structures which must be addressed.
The economic crisis and the corporate scramble to protect profits has had devastating effects on workers, their families and their communities. Furthermore, many people who experience multiple class, gender, race, sexuality, age, and ability based oppressions see “equal opportunity” slipping out of their fingers. When labor rights are not enforced and real wages fall, these workers are often at the highest risk. Even those who felt secure have found their power to be limited as administrators, governments officials, and corporate executives “restructure” jobs and lives with barely a nod to the voices of their employees.
We believe there are alternatives to the oppressive decisions made by our employers and our governments, that there are ALWAYS alternatives. By working together, we will have the resources and wisdom to find these alternatives and the willpower to make them our realities.
As we celebrate Miami’s bicentennial and reflect upon its history, we may find much to take pride in. However, in order to build a better future we must also engage the less savory aspects of that history. In the past twenty years, the voices and interests of students, faculty and staff have been consistently undermined by “institutional” priorities designed to promote the Miami image while protecting university investments, contracts and endowments. Administrative voices have defined what is best for us, but their policies and decisions often seem at odds with the needs and values of our community. As we are increasingly encouraged to articulate and realize those values as members of an “engaged” university, we wonder why no one is listening.
A Brief History of Disempowerment
1989: Miami University illegally decertifies the union representing classified staff, AFSCME Local 209, denying the staff’s right to negotiate their contract.
1994: The Ohio Supreme Court finds MU guilty of unfair labor practices and orders the university to allow the union to negotiate.
1997: A study by the Mercer consulting firm reports that Miami University’s wages for classified staff are insufficient at 18-19% below market value.
2000: A survey conducted by the Classified Personnel Advisory Committee shows that a “majority of the participants expressed opinions that indicated a low level of morale, not only among themselves, but among the classified staff in general.” Morale among staff “is perceived to be low and worsening.”
2003: AFSCME Local 209 goes on strike after contract negotiations fall through.
A report from a state-appointed fact finder recommends wage increases of 20-25% based on market comparisons and the ability of MU to pay the increases.
Miami engages in corporate-style strike breaking (as documented by former Miami professor, William Wines) and the strike ends with a 4.25% wage increase.
2006: President Garland closes the Western College Program/School of Interdisciplinary Studies, despite outcry from students, faculty, and staff regarding the lack of due process and transparency.
2009: A study released by University Senate reports that, within the last decade, administrative salaries have risen more sharply than faculty salaries as the number of administrative positions has also significantly increased.
Beyond the Bicentennial
The continuing lack of democratic decision-making at Miami is evident in the administrative response to the current budget deficit. In the coming months, 100 Miami employees will lose their jobs while the remaining staff, many of whom are already overworked and underpaid, will find themselves under further strain. Meanwhile, graduate assistantships have been cut in Art Education, Communications, Spanish, and the Institute of Environmental Sciences.
We must imagine –and demand– an alternative Miami (OUR Miami) where students, faculty and staff alongside administrators work toward a common vision, a Miami based upon shared power and respect, where decisions and policies respond to the needs of community members. We must demand a change in the wage structure of our university, in which administrators presently earn some of the highest salaries and receive raises to match while faculty and staff take on an ever increasing workload. We must demand real power in the governance of our university, rather than settling for a voice which is solicited symbolically but consistently devalued and ignored.
In the last few weeks communities across the country have mobilized through actions and press conferences to support a People’s Bailout: federal action that supports and protects the jobs, homes, and health care of working people, not the exorbitant salaries and negligent behavior of CEOs! We are not waiting around for this, we are demanding it now, as evident in the renewed spirit of the labor movement. We’ve seen the inspiring dedication of workers who occupied Chicago Windows and Doors for six days until they successfully reached a settlement including severance pay and health care. Also, in Tar Heel N.C., after years of struggle against management workers at Smithfield Packing, the largest meatpacking plant in the world, voted to join the UFCW.
However, the economic situation which has driven these actions remains bleak for many working families. At a press conference on Dec. 23rd, labor leaders and community members, including a delegate from Students for Staff, joined together in solidarity with the workers at the Dayton GM plant on the plant’s last day of operation. The closing of this facility represents the failure of our government to prioritize the needs of the working class during this economic crisis and, as a result, the Dayotn GM workers will join a growing mass of people facing this holiday season unemployed. In response, as part of the People’s Bailout, we demand demand job protection, health care, retirement security, a stop to evictions, the passage of the Employee Free Choice Act and long term, sustainable change to protect workers’ rights.
When I first read Miami’s official statement on the current economic crisis, I remember predicting that those who could least afford to make sacrifices would end up bearing the brunt of the impact. Unfortunately, I have not been proven wrong. Miami employs a small number of part-time workers (not the same as student employees), the majority of whom work in residence halls. I recently learned that these part time employees have been put in a very difficult position which I would like to bring to the attention of the Miami community.
In general, these employees are at Miami because they are hoping to move into full-time positions and, in addition, several of them are supporting children. They receive no benefits from Miami and, as a result, some have no health insurance. For the past year, part-time employees have each worked approximately 30 hours per week. However, beginning in January, they will be reduced to 16 hours per week; this means that someone who was earning around $400 every two weeks will now be earning around $200 every two weeks. If Miami does decide to lay off employees within the next year, part time workers will likely lose their jobs. However, because unemployment is based on average earnings for the last 12 months, the cut in hours means that these employees will be eligible for significantly less money from unemployment than they might have been otherwise.
I understand that Miami is in a difficult position financially, but is dramatically reducing the hours of some of our lowest paid staff a solution in line with the values of our university? Is this a long-term solution to Miami’s history of wasteful spending? For perspective, approximately 300 Miami employees earn over $100,000 a year and they have not been asked to make sacrifices anywhere near what has been demanded of our staff whose wages already rest uncomfortably close to the poverty line. If Miami University’s initial responses to the financial crisis will seriously jeopardize the well being of part-time staff, we can only expect that future decisions will continue to disproportionately burden our lowest paid employees.
Tell Cintas it’s time for a change! This October, we can make it happen! More than one-and-a-half years after a Cintas worker was killed on the job, the Cincinnati based company still hasn’t done enough to make its laundries safe. Join hundreds of injured Cintas workers, union members, and community allies at the company’s annual shareholder meeting in October.
What: RALLY TO MAKE CINTAS SAFE
When: OCTOBER 14, 2008 8:30am
Where: 6800 CINTAS BLVD., MASON, OH
Please email email@example.com if you plan to come. Transportation provided.