As the wind brings in the cool air, it brings in contract negotiations with it.
For those of you up on campus activity, you probably already know that some 200 to 220 campus employees, mostly consisting of our steady, loyal and fine building service workers and food service workers are represented by the Service Employees International Union ?? SEIU 200 United.
In addition, SEIU also represents, through SEIU 1199 Upstate, around 1000 employees at Strong Hospital.
Those employees have been working without contract since June 1, while on River Campus workers’ contracts end Oct 5.
Many of the most loyal workers ? we all know them ? have been here for years, and have made concessions to the university during tough times.
So that’s what you’re thinking, right? This nation’s economy might as well have tanked in the past couple years ? Rochester’s schools and social programs have gone down the crapper as if they were as unstable as the interest rate.
Not the case ? last year, when every upstate NY hospital posted net losses, Strong reaped an 18 million dollar profit ? The year before? 26 million above ground.
When we talk contract negotiations, we’re talking about small raises to deserving, loyal employees ? who, by the way, are making about $20 thousand a year after 10 years of work ? far below any living wage ? that have shown their repeated dedication and effort.
Bear with me, I’m going to put a little information down before I polish this opinion.
The current administration offer translates to a massive pay decrease because, although it offers a 1% increase in pay, it would take them off the 27-year old National Benefit Fund which is managed by both the SEIU 1199 and the University administration.
For workers to retain insurance they would have to come up with $1.57 per hour out of their own pockets, which amounts to about a $3,200 pay cut.
The two most influential men ? of course ? in this process are President Thomas Jackson and CEO of the UR Medical Center, Jay Stein.
It is they who are reaping the profit, and so they who have to be held accountable.
Let me ask the readers, particularly students, this ? I’ve heard students say they’re not satisfied with the service these employees provide, but how is it best changed ? by treating them like dirt?
Or by treating them like humans and listening to their already modest requests for health benefits and pay raises? It’s a simple equation, really.
Whether River Campus employees or Strong Hospital employees, what is most ironic about this situation is that we will have service employees, many of them healthcare workers, without the possibility for healthcare service.
What is truly important is that everyone involved with the production of a service gets rewarded for that work.
If Strong is making a profit, it’s not just because of the management.
Those employees could leave in a second, and Jay Stein would be in a hell of a lot of quicksand looking for a rope.
But for whatever reason, I suspect that power has gone to the heads of those at the top of UR ? Jackson and Stein ? the employees may have to strike simply to prove their value.
So given that these are facts ? what’s my opinion?
I don’t want people to be forced to strike just because UR wants to make a couple more bucks.
It’s gone beyond profiting from fair business, it’s gone even beyond the bottom-line, it’s gone to the bottom, and I, as a student and part of this community, am feeling soiled by Jackson and Stein’s opinions.
The first thing you can do is come out on Monday Sept. 30 at 2 p.m., in Douglass Dining Center to support your River Campus employees.
The next thing you can do is get more information at Wilson Commons fifth Floor on Thursdays at 8 p.m.
If that isn’t enough, or if it’s too much, you can say a prayer that the October wind doesn’t blow away the spirits of hundreds of loyal employees, acquaintances and friends.
Now I put the question to Jackson and Stein ? “What is your method of payment?”
Woodcock is a junior and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org