My colleague Michael Fischl had a good op-ed column in the Miami Herald on Friday, UM policy contributes to creation of ‘working poor’:
Like many universities, UM trims operating costs by hiring outside firms to provide various services, including food and security services as well as custodial and landscaping work. But cost-cutting is never the only concern. The university would not, for example, try to save money by hiring a meal vendor that cut costs by neglecting food safety or a security firm that cut costs by dispensing with background checks for its employees.
UM’s current policy — which affects not only the 400 workers employed by UNICCO but also hundreds of others who provide services on campus — contributes to the creation and maintenance of a class of ”working poor” whose incomes must frequently be subsidized by local government and charitable resources in order to meet their healthcare, housing, nutrition and energy needs.
What’s worse, the workforce in question comprises almost only Hispanics, African Americans, Caribbeans and other people of color. The determination of university officials to balance the budget on their backs is particularly poor corporate citizenship in the context of a larger community that prides itself in its diversity of populations and its history of providing opportunities for economic advancement. It is also at odds with the commitment to diversity that is otherwise a central feature of UM life.
What can be done to remedy this sorry situation? In terms of the current campaign, the workers have a legal right to decide for themselves whether to unionize; Shalala should state for the record that the university will not tolerate any interference with that right, either by its own administrators or by outside firms, and dispel the shameful rumor currently circulating on campus that UM will terminate the UNNICO contract if the union campaign succeeds.
The UNICO people usually look pretty unhappy around campus. This may partly explain why.