SEIU protest for fair contract, will vote to authorize strike later this month
The Service Employees International Union Local 73 gathered at Oak Street and Kirby Avenue on Wednesday to protest for fair contracts.
The union, also known as SEIU, has been negotiating with the University to create a fair contract since May of last year.
Ricky Baldwin, senior field organizer for SEIU, said the picket session was held to voice the group’s concerns.
At the picket sessions held at 7:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., employees held up signs with phrases such as “honk if you want clean toilets” and “work with justice.”
Thomas Haley, a building service worker for five and a half years, said he feels like he is helping change the working conditions for him and his colleagues.
“I think it’s great that we have the platform to be able to come out and make our voices heard to the University,” he said. “If we didn’t have a union, we would just be at their mercy.”
Haley said he is hoping to see some increases in the campus wages to support his cost of living.
“I would like to get all of our bargaining unit fair and decent wages,” he said. “We can’t go another year or more without a raise. With the cost of living and everything just going through the roof, our membership over the past few years has received only one raise.”
Depending on the progress of the negotiation, there is a chance for the union to go on strike. A vote to authorize a strike will take place Jan. 24-25.
“We’ve been negotiating for eight months and we just haven’t seen any satisfactory progress from the University,” Baldwin said. “All of the big (and) real important issues with the University isn’t merging at all.”
Campus spokeswoman Robin Kaler said the University is putting a lot of effort into finding a mid-point with the union.
“The University has been negotiating in good faith with the union in an effort to understand and fully address any concerns or proposals that the union has raised regarding working conditions,” Kaler said in an email Wednesday.
However, Baldwin said the important issues include asking employees to work on short notice.
“We made some progress on some relatively minor adjustments in the contract,” he said. “But someone just walked in from human resources and informed them shortly before Thanksgiving ‘by the way, you don’t get Thanksgiving holiday this year and Christmas holiday’ and so on.”
Baldwin also said union workers deserve more campus wage increases than they are currently receiving.
“It is true that the state has given the University less money every year,” he said. “However, the University has found other sources of income...the overall budget of the University has been increasing every year right through the worst years of the recession.”
Carina can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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