UNICCO strike: One year later

This time last year, garbage cans overflowed, classes were disrupted and students pitched tents outside of the Ashe administrative building in support of the UNICCO strike.

Disruption ensued on the Coral Gables campus as the UNICCO workers went on strike, asking for living wages and benefits.

The strike, which lasted nearly two months, ended when 75 percent of the workers voted in favor of union representation.

The Miami Hurricane reported on Aug. 29, 2006 that the contract included wage increases, health care, increased paid vacation time and personal days.

The service workers wages will increase an additional 15 cents per hour this September.

Doug Bailey, a spokesperson for UNICCO, said there have been no problems at UM since the workers unionized, nor have there been any lay-offs due to wage increases.

“UM increased the wages ahead of the unionization by the workers,” he said. “So we got exactly what we wanted and the workers got exactly what they wanted. It all worked out.”

Bernardita “Beni” Yunis, a junior and one of the students who actively supported the strike last year, said she is uneasy about how things are actually working out with the UNICCO workers and their new contract.

“The workers are doing okay and are happy with the help we gave last year,” said Yunis, who is also a Miami Hurricane columnist. “I still worry about it, but I don’t know if there’s anything else we can do.”

According to an article in The Miami Herald last year, the raises of service workers would cost the university an estimated extra $5 million per year.

Margot Winick, executive director of media relations, said that the costs are being absorbed through the existing university budget. She also said that student tuition will not be affected or rise as a result of the contract amount.

In an e-mail interview with The Hurricane, Winick said that no university programs are anticipated to be cut or reduced to offset the cost of the service worker’s contract.

Attempts to speak with several UNICCO employees throughout campus buildings were unsuccessful, as the workers declined to comment.

“We are happy with the services being provided to the University of Miami by the employees of UNICCO,” Winick said.

Megan Ondrizek may be contacted at m.ondrizek@umiami.edu.