A meeting held Friday between students, faculty, workers and representatives from the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and UNICCO resulted in a dead end, with no agreements made.
A follow-up meeting will be held on Tuesday as both sides mull their strategy in the campaign to unionize UNICCO workers.
What exactly was discussed was not disclosed due to a confidentiality agreement, but both sides revealed their thoughts on the meeting and what they saw needed to be done to make progress.
“It was really unproductive,” said Tanya Aquino of STAND. “Everyone was willing to concede except for UNICCO.
“Everyone else, from Jake [Coker-Dukowitz, of STAND], to the law professors, to SEIU even, were making huge concessions, but there was nothing being offered on the side of UNICCO,” Aquino said. “We’re really in a bind because, until the university steps up, this is not going to change.”
Renee Asher, of SEIU media and press relations, weighed in on the progress.
“Very little progress was made, but they did, however, keep talking, which is good, and we’ll talk again on Tuesday,” she said.
However, Asher said she has little faith in the university’s commitment to resolving the issue.
“It’s clear to me that the university’s just wasting time on this,” she said. “It’s hurtful to the students, I feel like they lied to us. UNICCO refused to be an active participant, and it’s making the students very frustrated and restless.”
Doug Bailey, UNICCO spokesman, disagreed.
“[The discussion is] continuous,” he said. “It didn’t come to a resolution; it dealt with mostly the same issue of card check versus elections, which was right and which was wrong, and the unfair labor practices. We were trying to make our case, but really, it didn’t reach any conclusion and will continue…on Tuesday.”
Bailey also elaborated on the issue of card checks.
“There’s a lot of confusion,” he said. “We’ve done card checks before, and the union has done elections before. We brought a worker, and it was a woman who got signatures from 99 other workers that said they didn’t want a union.
“We felt like we could make a case for elections, but I don’t think we were very convincing. Everyone’s made up their mind; nobody’s got an open mind about this.”
As the meeting on Tuesday draws near, STAND and SEIU representatives said they are considering different options, one of which might be a hunger strike.
“I can tell you that nine of the janitors have committed to joining a community hunger fast,” Asher said.
“It signifies how important it is,” she said. “This is not something that’s just semantics, or words-this is really about the fundamental human rights we all have, and what are we going to do when those rights are threatened? We’re going to stand together as a community and say ‘no.'”
Coker-Dukowitz said he is also considering the hunger strike option.
“Students are considering it as well,” he said. “If we have five students and about 15 workers, we might take up public space on U.S. 1.”
In spite of this option, Coker-Dukowitz said he remains hopeful of the talks.
“I honestly do believe that UM is now realizing that students will be in this longer than they realized, and we’re going to push for self-determination in terms of card check,” he said.
The university declined to comment on the meeting.
Jay Rooney can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.