SEIU strike shows the University’s persistent negotiation problems

The University has landed in the same position it lands in year after year. Except this time, there isn’t anyone crying wolf. Members of the Service Employees International Union Local 73 have begun striking and will continue until midnight Wednesday or until the University makes an offer that the members are willing to accept. 

The union, which represents over 800 University food and building service workers, has been in negotiations with the University since its contract expired in July. The group has been asking for better wages and better working conditions, expressing along the way how dissatisfied they are with how the University perceives and treats them. 

If this sounds familiar, it’s because it is. Earlier in the academic year, the Graduate Employees’ Organization had also authorized a strike before an agreement was made. In 2011, the SEIU had threatened to strike before a contract agreement was reached. Even then, the group was picketing for the same thing: better wages. And even then, for months, the University continued to stall any progress until the very last minute. It was the same thing with the GEO. 

How many times does this need to happen for the University to finally come to its senses and act on the problems it has been avoiding?

By this point, it seems as if the University hasn’t been taking strike threats seriously. Considering the history of the University with contract negotiations, SEIU is certainly justified to strike. When basic functions of the University cease to exist this week, the University should learn that procrastinating with such a vital group of workers on this campus is irresponsible. 

The SEIU has already claimed that during the strike, food service will not be available, classrooms and dorms will not be cleaned, and campus mail will not be delivered.

However, in an email sent out to University Housing residents, Jack Collins, director of University Housing, said all dining halls will function normally and trash removal and cleaning activities will continue. So it’s likely that, because of the University’s negligence, student workers will be picking up the slack during a traditionally work-heavy week of midterms, exams and papers. This strike affects these workers just as much as it will impact students’ lives, and neither of those is acceptable from this University. 

The next time the administration and a union have contract negotiation problems, concessions and settlements must be made before workers walk out. There’s no reason the University should wait this long to give workers the benefits to which they are entitled.

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