Hunger strike ends, escalation continues

My nine-day hunger strike resulted in more than failing health and a stay in the hospital. Putting my health on the line reinvigorated this campus’ zeal for finding a solution; it pressured UM, and helped to escalate the campaign nationally. The workers and students have ended their hunger strike, but the escalation continues as they confidently pass the torch to the African American and Cuban supporters. This decision to end the hunger strike comes as the burden of this campaign is now being shared by more than 150 people, from Hampshire College to Harvard, with more than 30 community organizations all fasting in solidarity. This comes on the heels of Annette Ponnock’s recent speech, which eloquently and professionally showed her deep care for the student body, and especially the hunger strikers’ health. We respect Annette Ponnock’s words sincerely and are honored to have her serve our school so justly.

We live in an imperfect world, underneath an economic system that perpetuates poverty and celebrates greed, and a social structure that encourages racism and neglects compassion. Never have I been faced with such an opportunity to change injustice and champion civil rights as I have had this semester in the workers’ rights campaign. Devoting my time to support the workers at UM has been an honor. I believe in their cause to grasp the human right to organize, which is so shamefully being denied here.

The university who has the responsibility to ensure the rights and safety of those employed by its contractors. The university refuses to recognize the illegal actions of its employee UNICCO, and therefore aligns itself with the law-breaking. The university has never dispelled the rumor that the UNICCO contract would be cut if a union formed. The university has lied, time and again, to the student body, and continues to do so in its claims of neutrality, which is nothing but a farce for its support of denying immigrants and low-wage earners their right to achieve the American Dream. The demand is clear: allow workers to unionize in a fair and safe process that they agree to. So far, there has not been a movement toward a democratic, safe process. The administration and UNICCO continue to force-feed 400 families the chains of oppression with their reverberating sound bites disguised as supporting democracy and freedom.

Recently, the administration is staking claims to my allegiance. They unfortunately have neglected that all students, including students fighting for civil rights and justice, love and strive to make the University of Miami a better place. My allegiance has not changed, though my time commitments have, with graduation fast-approaching. Even though I am no longer able, the workers and students will continue the work of justice.

I find myself now remaining in solidarity with workers, students, faculty, community members and the labor movement at large while also balancing a pile of academics to complete. My sudden absence from events in no way reflects my resolve in the issue.

Tanya Aquino


Explaining campus disruptions

Recently, STAND has received some ire from the student population for disrupting university life. It should be important to note that the “outside agitators” the university refers to are community organizations, a congressman and other members of Miami’s community who have requested meetings with Shalala, only to find the doors closed.

There should be a great urgency with the situation at hand. UNICCO’s website states that all you have to do is wait until the semester is over, and then the students are gone. Shortly after, it makes the claim that “.and then the workers have to come back to work”.

But the strike was over violations of labor law. After an investigation by the government, UNICCO was found to have reasonable cause to have spied, interrogated and threatened workers with reprisals for supporting a union. Shortly after these complaints were filed,

Zoila Mursuli was fired from her job for supporting a union, according to the Orlando Sentinel; the threat of losing one’s job is real. Even with the pay raise, such systematic civil rights violations were adroitly left out of any comment from the university.

UNICCO is not to be blamed as harshly as its employer, UM. The university has given the clear indication to UNICCO to employ such tactics by never responding to the allegation that the contract will be cut if they unionized. Using whatever means necessary to prevent the loss of a lucrative contract, UNICCO has violated the civil rights that a university is supposed to uphold by interrogating workers for their support of a union.

UM has given the green light for destroying our community, workers and students, by simply never telling UNICCO to lawfully respect their employees, and that their contract’s competitiveness will not be altered by unionization. UM has thus given a greater disruption to this community than any student or student organization could ever have. It has given UNICCO the option of preventing people like Zoila from having a voice and a say in their own lives.

In this, an apology is garnered to the students who endure through all disruptions, especially for classroom disruptions-but not to a university that cannot control unruly congressmen demanding that the school instruct its contractors to obey laws and morals that should be self evident. Avenues of dialogue have been exhausted; it is time for the university to do the right thing.

Jacob Coker-Dukowitz


Tasteless Anti-Catholic PIECE?

If The Hurricane’s editorial board had intended to insult the world’s billion Catholics, perhaps they should have chosen a more tactful writer than Mr. Baxter.

Not to mention his obviously poor writing, Mr. Baxter’s cavalier mockery of the Catholic Church and its leadership made me queasy. For the record, it’s about two billion people who would disagree with Mr. Baxter’s characterization of Christ’s “supposed” death and resurrection.

For Mr. Baxter to describe one of the most solemn celebrations in the Christian community as a “Barnum and Bailey-like” performance shows his obvious disdain for those who he admittedly disagrees with as to religion. It suggests that he either has never been to the circus or is just completely deluded. (Probably a little of both.)

Further, calling the Catholic Good Friday service inconsistent with Christ’s teachings is quite a stretch for someone who manages to recall a grand total of 3-5 quotes from his “highlighted and tattered Bible.”

If Mr. Baxter disagreed with what he saw on TV, maybe he should have changed the channel, but to suggest that we have got it all wrong and that he has got it all right represents an arrogance that is directly antithetical to the humble veneer that he adopts for himself.

There are plenty of Christians who can name the Ten Commandments. One wonders whether Mr. Baxter can count to ten.

Jack Harout Samra

Law student