Janitors at University of Miami to Hold Strike Authorization Vote on Sunday, February 26

Feb 22, 2006, 00:00 ET from Service Employees International Union

    MIAMI, Feb. 22 /PRNewswire/ -- The janitors at the University of Miami
 will vote to decide whether to authorize a strike over unfair labor practices
 committed by UNICCO -- the company hired by the university to manage the
 janitors who clean the campus -- Sunday, Feb. 26, at 12:45 PM. A strike on
 campus could come anytime after the vote.
     Janitors at the campus earn as little as $6.40 an hour and are not
 provided with health insurance. University President Donna Shalala has come
 under fire by a growing coalition of students, faculty, religious leaders, and
 community activists for not doing more to head off a strike and ensure UNICCO
 respects workers' right to organize for a living wage and affordable health
 insurance free from intimidation.
     WHO:    Janitors
     WHEN:   Sunday, Feb. 26, 12:45 PM
     WHAT:   Strike Vote
     Where:  Episcopal Church
             1150 Stanford Drive, Coral Gables
     Visual: Hundreds of janitors, chanting, cheering. The vote is open to the
 media. If you would like an opportunity to schedule an interview with a leader
 of the campaign prior to the vote, please call Renee Asher at 786-252-2369.
     Maritza Paz is one of the janitors who may vote to strike. For the last 11
 years she has worked as a janitor for UNICCO at the University of Miami, and
 managed to raise two kids on poverty wages. On the wages she earns cleaning,
 saving for retirement and quality health care are just a dream. Instead, Paz,
 like hundreds of other janitors at the University of Miami, must scramble to
 pay for medicine, doctor's visits, food, and rent. Often her salary doesn't
 cover all the basic necessities and when that happens she and her family must
 simply do without.
     Janitors at the University of Miami, most of whom are immigrants from
 Cuba, Haiti and South America, earn some of the lowest wages for campus
 janitors in the country. Unionized janitors who work for the same company in
 other cities earn higher wages and are provided health insurance. At Harvard
 University in Boston, UNICCO janitors earn between $13 and $14 an hour and
 have fully paid health insurance. But they didn't always. Janitors won the
 higher wages and benefits as the result of a two-year campaign on their behalf
 by students, the community, and SEIU.
     As Miami-Dade's largest single employer, the University of Miami has a
 special obligation to be a leader in the fight against poverty. Yet, the
 university's policies have actually increased Miami-Dade's poverty rate. In an
 already poor city, janitors at the University of Miami are some of the
 poorest, earning as little as $13,104 a year, less than half the county
     Wages are low, and benefits almost nonexistent for campus janitors,
 because cleaning contractors have to bid the work. Responsible contractors who
 pay higher wages and provide affordable health benefits can not possibly
 compete for work with contractors who do not. That is why university
 presidents around the country have made it a priority to only hire responsible
 contractors for their campuses. The result has been for contractors to bid on
 the quality of their work, rather than driving wages and benefits down.
 University President Donna Shalala has been unwilling to commit the university
 to funding higher wages and affordable health insurance for the UNICCO
 janitors.  UNICCO embarked on a vicious anti-union campaign including threats
 and interrogation after janitors on the campus started organizing with Local
 11 for better wages, benefits, and respect on the job.

SOURCE Service Employees International Union