By Hailey Mallendick, Senior Staff Writer
The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) and the local chapter of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) held a solidarity meeting last Tuesday evening in Shideler Hall.
The AAUP held the meeting to show their support for AFSCME as they prepare for contract negotiations with the university. Their contract, which covers the 860 employees who maintain Miami's housing and dining services, is approaching its June 30 deadline.
Dustin Jones, the president of Miami's AFSCME chapter and custodian at Clawson Hall, spoke at the meeting about the main points in their contract negotiations.
"We will be focusing on the wages and benefits," Jones said. "We want enough to live, not to get rich. It used to be a stable job with great benefits, but they are getting rid of the benefits."
Housing and dining staff are currently paid a $10 an hour starting wage. However, when budget cuts were made in 2008, many employees began doing the work of multiple people.
In a November interview with The Miami Student, Jones said each manager used to have about three or four buildings and were able to quickly address issues. They went from ten units down to five and now have only five managers for five different quads.
At the solidarity meeting, Jones said many workers in his chapter who have been forced to double their workload and change their work routines due to understaffing.
"The staff in housing was cut in half," Jones said. "So many things we used to do haven't been done since 2008. We used to clean toilets three times a day, now only once. Cleaning the banisters hasn't been done since J-Term, but since norovirus [hit campus], they are paying people overtime to come in and do the work we used to do every day."
During the meeting,many members of the AAUP spoke out in support of AFSCME's efforts. Gael Montgomery, a visiting assistant professor of French and Italian and a member of the AAUP, spoke about the importance of the staff's work for the university.
"I understand in an abstract way why your jobs are considered less important because it is not the main focus of the university," Montgomery said to AFSCME members. "However, I have a realistic idea that, without you, I cannot do anything."
Jones agrees the university could not operate without AFSCME's work.
"Miami needs to start treating their staff as assets to this organization instead of costs," Jones said in November.
Miami has attempted to outsource the work done by the housing and dining staff to cut costs, but has not been able to find employees who could do the same quality of work for less money.
"[The university] brought in [employees] from Marriott and Compass for rooming and dining to see if they can do the work cheaper, but they can't, and they were surprised by what we do," Jones said. "The fact that we have such a strict attendance policy shows that they need us."
The university has also attempted to hire more students to do the same quality of work. It used to be that students would come in and prep food, and there would always be food service on the line to verify portion control and food quality. If something was looking unpresentable, food service would take it back and make it right or get rid of it.
"The students are learning work ethic," Jones said in November. "I don't want them to think that students don't have any regard for quality, but when your liveli
hood is on the line and you take great pride in your work because that is your job, that is your bread and butter, it is taken more seriously by staff because that is our entire lives."
After the meeting, Cathy Wagner, professor of English and vice president of Miami's AAUP chapter, stressed the importance of supporting AFSCME members.
"They really need our solidarity and support," Wagner said. "I think all we can do is put out the word that we are supporting them and help raise awareness."
Donald Ucci, a professor of engineering and member of the AAUP, echoed Wagner's sentiment. "I would love to see a unified approach from the faculty, staff and students to work with the administration," Ucci said. "It is very important for us to stand together."
Additional reporting by Audrey Davis