Students for Staff is a coalition of undergrads, graduate students and alumni who are committed to raising the wages for our university’s workers. As our administration acknowledged in an open letter to the Miami’s faculty (10/7/03) many University employees are struggling to make ends meet, because they do not earn a sufficient income. Students for Staff values the work of Miami employees and believe that valuable work demands valuable compensation. We believe that the University has a moral obligation to pay its employees just wages and are working to make this a reality.
- 1997: The William M. Mercer consulting firm informed Miami University that its wage structure was 18-19% below market value.
- November 2002: MU Fair Labor Coalition is formed to work for wage changes and to express growing employee concerns.
- August 2003: Members of the Local 209 Union, the Oxford Community and the MU Fair Labor Coalition march with convocation speaker, Barbara Ehrenreich, in support of better wages for Miami staff.
- September 2003: On the 26th, Miami staff members of the Local Union 209 bargaining unit of the American Federation of State and County Municipal Employees (AFSCME) go on strike after negotiations between the university and AFSCME fail to arrive at an agreement regarding just wages. Hundreds of employees walk the picket lines for almost two weeks. Randy Marcum, the Union president, goes on a hunger strike. Students bulid a ‘tent city’ in front of the administration building in support of the workers on strike. Many marches and protests take place. The University busses in African American workers from Cincinnati to cross the picket line.
- The MUFair Labor Coalition has 30 to 40 core members of the student population and works alongside Local 209 to raise student body support for Miami’s staff. Many more faculty, students, and community members come out for multiple events in support of the staff.
- October 2003: The union settles for 4.25% raise for the first year, 3% for the following, and 3% for the last.
- August 2003: A state-appointed Fact Finder committee recommends wage increases for Miami University staff that Richard M. Norman, Vice President for Finance and Business Services, cited as averaging 25%.
Fall Semester 2005:
- September 2005: SFS is reformed and reformulated from the remaining students of the previously existing MUFair Labor Coalition.
- November 2005: SFS holds its first Public Meeting where students, staff, and professors speak out about the necessity of adopting of a living wage policy. 150 people attend, 14 staff members, students, and faculty speak. Staff give moving testimonials about struggling to get by with their current wages.
Spring Semester 2006:
- March 2, 2006: On March 2, 2006 a coalition of students from SFS and SATSS workers make a presentation on what a living wage is, and what form the movement has taken at our campus and nation-wide. We also demand that the links to video testimonials from the first Public Meeting be forwarded to everyone on campus by the end of the school year, which was not done. We also ask that our report be forwarded to Richard Norman and other members of the Board, which CPAC did, but we have yet, to this day, to receive any formal response indicating any serious consideration of the report or its content.
- It was because of this presentation that democratic representation on CPAC became a pressing concern, especially since word spread on the SATSS (clerical staff) listserv that such a presentation was made, but no word ever reached the staff from CPAC themselves. This is the first time in Miami history that students and staff make a collaborative presentation to the Classified Personnel Advisory Committee together. Miami’s Classified Personal Advisory Committee (CPAC) is a board whose members are appointed by the University President for the purpose of “obtain[ing] the ear of the Administration to listen to classified staff concerns” (see CPAC’s goals).
- After the presentation, we receive no formal response, even though we were promised one.
- April 2006: SFS collaborates with SATSS workers to organize and arrange gift baskets for Professional Assistants’ Week.
Fall Semester 2006:
- October 2006: SFS hosts its second public meeting in which students, staff from HDGS and SATSS, Communications Professor Ben Voth, Ohio Senate Minority Leader-CJ Prentiss, and a member of AFSCME from Indiana University speak out in support of a living wage and against the election of Kenneth Blackwell for Governor who had vowed to dissolve the right of public sector workers to unionize.
- December 12, 2006: A delegation of students from SFS meet with President Hodge for the first time to ask for the following demands: 1. access to any poverty data the university may have regarding its workers, 2. the democratization of CPAC, 3. the establishment of a living wage committee, and 4. the implemenation of living wage policy for all of Miami’s staff. President Hodge denies access to the poverty data, the establishment of a living wage committee, and the implementation of living wage policy, but says he will look into the democratization of CPAC, as it coincides with his philosophy of “what Miami should be.” We set up another meeting for January.
Spring Semester 2007:
- January: SFS meets with President Hodge a second time. He insists that CPAC should stay an advisory committee that he appoints, rather than a representative body elected by the SATSS staff. He, again, denies the three previous demands from SFS. He informs SFS that we have nothing left to negotiate, and the negotiations cease.
- Throughout the semester, SFS stages weekly marches/protests in support of a living wage for Miami’s staff and consequently have a plethora of run-ins with Miami bureaucracy.
- March: SFS works alongside the union in a Union Drive to bolster the membership of Local 209.
- April: Students For Staff presents LIVING WAGE WEEK in the form of two events: a LIVING WAGE FORUM; a discussion with Living Wage experts Dr Stephanie Luce & Dr Christian Weller attended by 85-100 faculty, students, and staff attend, and a LIVING WAGE RALLY. The rally is the most successful SFS event to date! The event culminates in a march of students into the administration building to deliver a letter to President Hodge.
- SFS debates ISI, a conservative leadership group on campus, about the efficacy of a living wage.
- May: SFS after an all-day theatrical action in front of the administration building convinces President Hodge to give us the rest of the poverty data. We learn the following:
- 32 Miami workers are living under 100% of the federal poverty line.
- 112 Miami workers are living under 130% of the federal poverty line. 130% of the federal poverty line is used by the federal government to determine if a person is eligible for food stamps and other forms of government assistance; thus, all of these workers are potentially eligible for food stamps, etc.
- 449 Miami workers are living under 200% of the federal poverty line.
- 200% of the federal poverty line is classified as “low income.” Since the federal poverty line is egregiously low, i.e. it equates to only about $9000 per year for one worker with no dependents, 200% is used by social aide agencies as a more accurate representation of impoverished workers. It is also the cut off point, where most workers are no longer eligible for social aide (thus, people living under 200% of the federal poverty line typically are eligible for aide from social organizations).
- *It is important to note that the numbers above do not account for a possible secondary income either from a spouse or a second job.
- June: SFS works with the Union, Local 209, to pass out flyers to Miami staff members that urge a letter writing campaign to prevent the University from changing the insurance policy to a significantly worse health care plan that would take the form of a Health Savings Account. The campaign is successful!
- SFS is also present for Alumini weekend, passing out information and talking to many Miami alums.
Fall Semester 2007:
- Throughout the year, SFS gives presentations to classes around the living wage issue and begins building a strong coalition of allies within the student body and in the surrounding community.
- August: SFS begins a new semester with a massive flyering of convocation.
- The living wage committee is formed by SFS without the administration’s support. The committee is comprised of students, staff, and faculty and is currently working on developing a living wage number and proposal to present to our administration.
- September: SFS holds Staff Day, a Staff appreciation day. Students wear green ribbons in support of staff, and write over 250 thank yous to the staff. The day ends with a reception, at which students gave toasts and speeches to thank the staff.
- October: Local 209 and SFS work together on a float for the Miami homecoming parade.
- November: The Student Labor Action Band makes its debut as SFS students walk around campus singing living wage songs and strumming guitars.
- SFS members gather for a ½ day retreat to review history, strategize, and plan for the coming semester.
- December: SFS distributes holiday cards to staff.
- The Graduate Student Association passes a resolution calling for President Hodge to implement a living wage. The Associated Student Government (undergraduate) fails to pass a similar bill.
Spring Semester 2008
- February: US Senator Sherrod Brown sends a letter to SFS stating “Your commitment to improving working conditions and the lives of workers is admirable. We must continue to push for a living wage for all of America’s hardworking men and women.”
- March: With support from the U.S. Student Association Foundation, Jobs With justice and AFSCME, SFS hosts a Grass Roots Organizing Weekend on labor issues at Miami University.
- April: SFS holds a living wage rally attended by approximately 80 people. The rally centers around the proposal for a living wage released by SFS which cites $12.45/hour as the minimum amount required by a single wage earner with 2 children.
- SFS begins the 15 day countdown until the meeting with President Hodge regarding his response to the living wage proposal. To the delight of many students, sounds of “The Final Countdown” song echo across campus as SFS members parade the Living Wage proposal sign up and down the sidewalk.
- University Senate passes a resolution (non-binding) urging President Hodge to implement a living wage at Miami University.
- President Hodge refuses to take steps to implement the living wage proposal and refuses to designate a living wage as a fiscal priority.
May: In a sign of overwhelming munificence and good will in a time of serious budgetary constraints, the university implements pay raises for classified staff, raising the minimum from $9/hour to $9.30/hour as recommended by the Advisory Committee on Classified Staff Pay Zone Minimums. As a comparison, earlier in the year President Hodge accepted an extended contract from the Board of Trustees, receiving an 11% increase in his salary, from $340,000 to $380,000.
Fall Semester 2008
- September: A report released by the Ohio Association of Community Action Agencies shows that a single parent with a preschooler and an infant in Butler County needs $46, 638 a year to meet the cost of living, double what some staff are paid at Miami.
- October: Local 209 and SFS work together on a float for the Miami homecoming parade.
- SFS members attend a Cincinnati rally to Make Cintas Safe in response to the many safety violations at Cintas plants across the country.
- Miami begins a voluntary transition from traditional insurance to a Health Savings Account which benefits the wealthy but makes health care more expensive for low wage workers.
- November: President Hodge announces that Miami has entered an economic crisis and as a result there will be cutbacks including a hiring freeze.
- The hours of part-time workers are cut in half from 30 to 16 hours a week and no benefits.
- SFS begins building an oxford coalition to address issues of economic justice.
- December A census report shows that within the last nine years incomes in Oxford have dropped by 30%, putting Oxford third in the nation for cities with the largest income drops.