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Report: Tuition likely source for possible worker pay raise

Money to fund a living wage for university service workers would most likely come from raising student tuition, a Student Government (SG) Senate report released Wednesday said.

The report, written by senators Kris Brooks (Eaton), Camilo Martinez (Senior) and Daniel Ohrenstein (Pearson), said raising workers’ wages could only come from money raised by the Momentum campaign if the funds were earmarked by the donor or donors for that purpose. Otherwise, the cost would probably be passed on to the students.

According to the report, the estimated cost per undergraduate per year to provide a living wage with health care to the workers would be $193.26. If health care were not provided, the total cost per undergraduate per year would be $221.31. The cost without health care is higher because wages would need compensate for the lack of benefits.

The report’s numbers assume that each employee works full-time, five days a week, for every week of the year. The figures are based on the Miami-Dade County ordinance that stipulates that the living wage with health care is $9.81 per hour and $11.23 without health care, including a 7.65 percent Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) payment that covers Social Security and Medicare. The authors’ calculations also assume that money the school receives from state appropriations can be used to pay for service workers’ contracts.

The senators, who worked on the report since late January, said they did not contact administration, Service Employees International Union (SEIU), UNICCO or Students Towards a New Democracy (STAND) officials in their research. Instead, they contacted Professor Bruce Nissen at Florida International University, who helped draft the county living wage ordinance, Brooks, the senator from Eaton, said. The authors also used government documents and formulas to calculate the costs included in the report.

The eight-page report, titled “Independent Inquiry of the Undergraduate Student Impact of Implementing a ‘Living Wage’ for UNICCO Workers at the University of Miami,” also looked into how increasing workers’ wages would affect other government benefits employees may receive. For example, some workers who lived in households of two to three people might lose eligibility for food stamps, but increased pay would most likely not affect workers’ eligibility for Medicaid, the Earned Income Tax Credit, and Temporary Assistance to Needy Families.

The report said that living wage funding strategies that worked at other universities may not apply to UM, since each institution has a different endowment.

Students supporting the UNICCO workers’ strike submitted a written request to President Donna E. Shalala Wednesday afternoon, detailing what they would like the university to do to help service workers.

The document requests that the university provide a living wage and benefits to both directly hired and subcontracted workers; respect the workers’ decision to unionize; and form a committee to implement and observe the execution of these policies. Living wage and benefits should comply with the standards set by the county and state, the request said.

The document, titled “Requests for Change and Implementation of Living Wage Policy,” was hand delivered to Shalala by a group of 15 to 20 students. The request is signed by 26 faculty members, 31 students and one chaplain.

Shalala said she would read the document and take it seriously.

“I admire your passion and hard work,” she told the students.

Stacey Arnold contributed to this article.

Patricia Mazzei can be contacted at pmazzei@miami.edu.

March 10, 2006

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The Miami Hurricane is the student newspaper of the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. The newspaper is edited and produced by undergraduate students at UM and is published weekly in print on Tuesdays during the regular academic year.