Sunday, October 31, 2010

Small Victories at UW

Good news ya'll, we won the struggle against unpaid overtime (see flyer in the post below for more info on what that struggle was about). Also, while management would not allow custodians to heat up food or drink in their custodial closets, we did manage to win designated break rooms with microwaves instead for all custodians, which is even better.

This is all possible because Sal, a key rank-and-file custodian leader and a member of IWSJ took the initiative. He organized his coworkers, and wrote a letter demanding that unpaid overtime end and that management let workers heat up their food and drink (see post below for a copy of that letter). IWSJ organized a public picket to support this, and members of Seattle Solidarity Network, Organized Workers for Labor Solidarity, and For a Democratic University came out in solidarity. All of this got the leaders of WFSE local 1488 moving, and the union leaders helped workers file a stack of grievances. Then workers, union leaders, and supporters from IWSJ marched to Human Resources to deliver these grievances (see here for news coverage of that action).

All of this successfully pressured management to negotiate.

In a workforce beaten down by police repression, management divide and conquer, harassment, and arbitrary reassignments that make it difficult to organize, this is a small but significant step forward. It shows that solidarity works and that something can be done if we come together and fight back.

We need to continue the struggle. We've heard rumors that some professors are now complaining about custodians eating in the designated break rooms because they don't like the smell of immigrant workers' food. If this is true they should get used to it, this isn't the Jim Crow South in the 1950s, you don't get to decide who can and cannot eat at the same lunch counter with you! Also, custodians are fellow workers who keep the university running every day, and without them professors wouldn't have clean classrooms or labs so they should show a little more respect.

We will be talking with custodians to research this situation, and if anyone verifies complaints along these lines please contact us. We will encourage workers to file grievances and we will organize around it to make sure that all custodians can use the break rooms they just won.

Also, Team Cleaning (a thinly veiled form of speedup and assembly-line style overwork) is continuing in manager Yang Sook's area, as well as other parts of the university, and we need to keep struggling against this.

If you are interested in getting involved in this kind of organizing at your workplace, or if you want to support UW custodian struggles, please contact us at . If more people get involved, more victories like this will be possible.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Stop discrimination, retaliation, and unpaid overtime at UW- Picket Thurs Oct 7 at 1:15 Red Square, UW Seattle

Members of IWSJ who are custodians at UW presented this letter to UW Director of Facilities Services Charles Kennedy on Tues Sept 28th at a forum he was holding on budget cuts at UW. The letter outlines how UW custodial services manager Yang Sook Choe has been mistreating custodians in her area. She has banned them from using UW electricity to heat up their food in their custodial closets during breaks, and she has required them to stay in their buildings so late that they don't have time to get to the clock station to clock out before their shift ends, leading to mandatory unpaid overtime.

We demanded that Kennedy and Custodial Services director Gene Woodard respond within one week. If we do not hear back from them by tomorrow, October 5th, we will begin a public campaign of actions aimed at correcting Yang Sook's abuses. We had to do this once before, back in February, and after that action Yang Sook had let up on some of her most oppressive abuses. Maybe she thinks we went away and therefore she can get away with it this time. If so, she is wrong.

Immediately after custodians from her area presented this demand letter to her supervisors, Yang Sook announced that she would be imposing team cleaning in her area. Team cleaning is a much-hated cleaning method that robs workers of creativity, initiative, and freedom on the job and forces them into an assembly line-type procedure that management uses to enforce overwork and unsustainable speed-up of the cleaning process. Custodians in Yang Sook's area have been resisting this for decades. Her move to impose it beginning today is widely perceived to be an act of retaliation against our demand letter.

Because of this bad-faith response, IWSJ will be organizing a picket line on Thurs, Oct 7th at 1:15 PM on Red Square at UW-Seattle (in front of Gerberding Hall), right after the custodian day shift ends. We need to make clear that retaliation is not welcome on our campus and in our workplace! This will be followed by a student-worker speak out at 3:30 PM against budget cuts. Both of these actions are part of the National Day of Action to Defend Public Education against budget cuts. We hope to see you there.

You can find a copy of the demand letter here.