It appears there could be an end to the UNICCO strike, and a positive one at that. After several weeks of marches, protesting, and classes held outdoors, the university “adopted and implemented a new policy that sets minimum standards for service contractors doing business on the University’s campuses.” This minimum was raised by between two and three dollars. Despite the protesting, this writer always had the feeling that President Shalala would do the right thing in terms of a living wage for the workers.
Knowing our president’s history in politics and leadership, I felt a decision to improve the UNICCO employees’ pay rate would be dealt with as she has governed in the past. After a period of deliberation, President Shalala and the group that she “appointed to study wages and insurance benefits of the employees of outside service contractors” created a plan appealing to the employees and the students. Additionally, the tuition rates published for next year will not change. Time was taken to assess the situation for all involved. Nothing was done in haste; likely to ensure that all sides were respected.
The voices and outcry from the school community were heard and continue to be heard. Coordinating the relocation of classes was done despite the difficulties placed on students and professors. Then, the school went on spring break. After a week-long hiatus, the thought of UNICCO workers pushing for higher wages was buried under memories of beaches and cruises. Though many students may have forgotten, some classes remained vacant but most of all, President Shalala and the school administration had not forgotten. School returned with a surprise e-mail in everyone’s mailbox from the president herself.
In a country that sees the effects of war and the suffering it creates, that is subjected to globalization and global warming, that has higher numbers of unemployed, it is the goal to make life better not harder for those who are struggling at the bottom of the pay scale. Everyone on this campus is part of the UM community and as President Shalala proves, everyone will reap the benefits that this decision has to offer. The current strike caused a disruption to the school, but it was an honorable one. Without the wise leadership of our president, the school could have witnessed a larger disturbance placing great hardships on students, parents, faculty members, and employees.
Because we have a leader with the experience, integrity, and compassion of President Shalala, there was little worry that the University would leave any parties unsatisfied and not treated fairly. Now that the school made a decision, it remains up to UNICCO, its employees, and their union. As has been stated, the school remains neutral. With this first positive step underway, we look forward that an agreement will be made to give the UNICCO employees a living wage allowing the University to get back to normal.
Sam Rega is a sophomore majoring in motion pictures and philosophy. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.