What a great idea: The UM administration has decided to pay for classes that will help UNICCO workers develop specialized skills and improve their English language proficiency. This is clearly better than a mediocre pay raise.
Last year, in the midst of the living wage battle, many thought that UNICCO workers would be fired if they complained. Many students thought they had to speak up for the poor UNICCO workers because nobody would listen otherwise. Concerned students gathered and became the voice of the UNICCO workers. They screamed and yelled and held up signs. And the UM administration looked on and wondered why the workers had not notified them that they felt underpaid and under-appreciated.
Many said it was because the workers didn’t know they were being paid below the living wage standards set forth by Miami-Dade County. But the truth is that many didn’t really care; they were happy to be able to work in a safe environment with smiling faces and security guards.
After speaking with several UNICCO employees, the UM administration determined that UNICCO workers would rather be given opportunities and skill development courses that they can utilize for the rest of their lives, than to simply get a small raise in pay to meet the living wage salary. These classes are very expensive and most wouldn’t be able to afford it if UM wasn’t picking up the tab.
Workers are also learning to speak English via enrollment in courses at UM, so they can function effectively outside of Miami, outside of an area where they are surrounded by their native languages, whether it be Spanish, French, Haitian-Creole, or Chinese. The UNICCO workers who have not had prior opportunities are beginning to understand how to use a computer, the Internet, a keyboard, even if they can’t afford to own one.
Ironically, none of them were fired for speaking out and asking for these things.
In fact, UM is even giving workers the opportunity to earn their GED [Generalized Education Degree] through the Miami-Dade County Public School System.
And if that wasn’t enough, UM is also tapping into local healthcare resources and making workers aware of the availability of discounted medical care, free clinics, and other medical programs. This year, UM has hired a personal liaison that will give workers all of the paperwork necessary to assist them in locating and becoming eligible for a variety of medical assistance programs.
Additionally, workers have more personal days to take off from work and they get paid extra if they decide to work them.
Soon, these workers will be able to move up in the company, to hold higher paying positions with more responsibilities that will allow them to gain new experiences and thus allow them to build an impressive resume. They can look for employment elsewhere. They can leave Miami if they have aspirations to do so.
Perhaps the best part of the plan is that it will be re-evaluated in order to determine the effectiveness of the programs and classes offered on a yearly basis.
The UM administration listened to the needs and concerns of the UNICCO employees and took the necessary action. Their efforts should be commended.