News

No end in sight as hunger strike continues

The struggle of UNICCO workers to unionize has escalated even further with two striking workers hospitalized over the weekend, and demonstrators gathered outside the Ashe building on Tuesday and Wednesday.

UNICCO and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) also continue to spar over the best way to let workers decide over a unionizing process.

UNICCO worker Isabel Montalvo collapsed on April 8 and was rushed to Doctor’s Hospital after an on-site nurse determined a spike in her blood pressure put her at risk for a stroke.

Montalvo has since returned to the hunger strike.

On April 9, Odalys Rodriguez, UNICCO worker, also collapsed and was rushed to the hospital.

Following these events, students, workers and SEIU representatives convened at Donna E. Shalala’s office early Tuesday afternoon requesting to speak to her. The group was told Shalala was not available.

Upon leaving the building, more than 100 striking UNICCO workers from Nova Southeastern University, as well as representatives from the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) rallied outside the Ashe building in support of the workers.

Clara Vargas, UNICCO worker, is participating in the hunger strike along with other striking workers.

“I’m feeling a bit weak, I had some back pains, but it’s been getting a bit better,” she said. “In any case, we implore [Shalala] to be human, to listen to the workers. We have to have hope,” she said.

“Here are these workers’ human and civil rights being trampled on, they haven’t eaten in eight days, and Shalala won’t even meet with them,” said Jacob Coker-Dukowitz, a junior and member of STAND. “If she came down and talked to the workers, I would be very happy.”

According to Margot Winick, director of media relations, the university does not want to see a hunger strike, but won’t speak out against an election.

“It’s sad. The university doesn’t want to see this, but they’re not on university property, so it’s hard for me to say,” she said. “I heard UNICCO say they can have this solved in a matter of days if the union calls for a vote.”

Dukowitz, however, disagrees.

“It’s not a process issue. This is about civil rights, and talking about anything else is changing the subject,” he said. “The reality is the university is the one responsible here.”

Doug Bailey, UNICCO spokesman, expressed concern over the strike.

“It’s unfortunate that they would go on a hunger strike,” he said. “We believe they’ve been fed a bag of lies, and it’s unconceivable for the union to allow this to happen. What they’re doing amounts to extortion.”

The SEIU had a completely different take on the situation.

“Think of what this company has done – it has threatened workers, polarized workers,” Renee Asher, SEIU spokeswoman, said. “[Shalala] needs to step up to UNICCO and say ‘I will not tolerate this.'”

Seven students are to join the nine workers hunger striking as of press time. Tanya Aquino, a senior and a member of STAND, is among them.

“This is not just about the over 400 families on strike, this is for all of working America,” she said. “This is social justice for the workers whose right to organize is denied. It’s bigger than the hunger strikers, it’s bigger than me, it’s bigger than UM, and it’s not going to stop.”

Jay Rooney can be contacted at j.rooney@umiami.edu.

April 14, 2006

Reporters

The Miami Hurricane

Student newspaper at the University of Miami


Around the Web
  • Miami Herald
  • UM News
  • HurricaneSports

UM was very fortunate that junior linebackers Shaquille Quarterman, Mike Pinckney and Zach McCloud a ...

Hard Rock Stadium will be filled with Miami fans — and probably only Miami fans — when the two colle ...

They made school history on Sunday with a nationally-televised road upset of No. 2 Louisville, and o ...

Mark Walton, the former University of Miami star football player and current Cincinnati Bengal, was ...

Don Chaney Jr. says his recruitment is over and the way he talks about the Miami Hurricanes, it’s ea ...

Researcher Rebecca Bulotsky Shearer is leading a study aimed at increasing the number of kids who ar ...

UM alumna Alina Mayo Azze, who has covered a myriad of topics during her 37-year career, has been a ...

Happiness and well-being scholar Tal Ben-Shahar is UM’s newest Distinguished Presidential Scholar. ...

The University of Miami will host the first symposium to explore LGBTQ human rights across the Ameri ...

UM experts react to a new ban that prohibits people in Key West from using certain types of sunscree ...

The No. 20 Miami women's basketball team stormed back from a 14-point deficit to pick up the bi ...

Hours after garnering espnW National Player of the Week distinction, Emese Hof of the Miami women ...

For the second straight Monday, a member of the Miami women's basketball team has earned a nati ...

Brian Van Belle struck out five over six shutout innings to help the Canes sweep Rutgers on opening ...

The No. 25-ranked University of Miami golf team moved up two spots on Monday's leaderboard at t ...

TMH Twitter
About TMH

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.