UE Local 267’s Contract Negotiations

UVM Administrators’ Twisted PrioritiesBy T.J. Grace, Class of 2006 Unknown to many students, the workers who drive the busses, clean the facilities, and maintain the grounds are in a struggle with the UVM administration over a decent living. Since July 1st the workers belonging to United Electric (UE) Local 267 have been working without a contract, and for past months have been at the negotiating table with UVM administration officials. Among the Union demands the administration has adamantly refused are the following:* 5% per year wage increases over the next three years* Starting pay higher than $9.05 per hour (the City of Burlington, St. Michael’s College, CCTA all start at $10.50 per hour)* Small bonuses to employees who have not reached the top of the wage scale for their pay grade (even with 25 years of service to UVM)* An end to the firing employees who are on light duty if the employee is not completely healed after six months of the date of the injury. UVM would be a sorry place without the workers of UE Local 267. Pretend it’s late January and you wake up and hurry down your hall, which reeks of the trash overflowing the trash cans. Stepping outside, you walk as fast as you can over unsalted ice (falling once) and unplowed snow to class. There is no food service on campus, so no breakfast. You slip as you rush through the halls which are caked with slush and mud. You get one of the last seats in class, right next to the a trashcan spilling over with Speeder and Earl’s coffee cups. The notes on the board are hard to read, if it is a chalkboard it is caked with weeks of lecture notes, or if it is a dry erase board it is nearly impossible to read the dry scratchy marker over week old marks. Need I say more? The workers of UE 267 all deserve a livable wage, but they need the support of the student body if they are to achieve it. I, along with every other student I have spoken with, find it despicable that an administration with multi-million dollar plans for new dorms, a new president’s house, and a reconstruction of the green on main campus could even joke about refusing the modest demands of the very workers who keep this university running. Over the past weeks a handful of UE members have been circling a petition in support of the Union workers, and last Thursday delivered the 1,200 signatures to President Fogel’s office accompanied by 50 supporters. But their struggle is not over, and many demands remained unresolved. The administration is penny-pinching over benefits and demands that can make or break workers and their families. The two sides have laid out their agenda, the Union struggles for a decent living, and the administration fights at every step a rise in UVM employees standard of living. Whose side are you on?