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On the picket line

January 11, 2002 | Page 11

Harvard University janitors
University of Cincinnati professors

Cook and DuPage County transportation workers

By Bridget Broderick

CHICAGO--In a cold rain, about 50 members of the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 1702 and their supporters picketed and rallied in front of the Cook-DuPage Transportation (CDT) offices December 14.

Four hundred CDT drivers, mechanics, dispatchers and office workers provide paratransit services for thousands of Chicago residents with disabilities who can't ride the Chicago Transit Authority.

After months of negotiations, union members were fed up with the unwillingness of CDT's owner to negotiate, and voted to authorize a strike in December.

Local 1702 President Erwin Dabney noted CDT had tried to divide workers by offering advances to drivers who didn't join the union and threatening to permanently replace strikers before a strike vote was even called.

The union is calling for a $1.11 raise over 3 years, more union security and respect on the job. Workers are angry that CDT was offering a $.30 raise in the first year, when their uniforms cost $100 a year.

Drivers have to work eight hours before they get a 20-minute break, and health care costs are becoming prohibitive--$40 per pay period for single members and $200 for some members with families.

Workers expressed outrage at the filthy conditions at the garage where they must contend with rats and unsanitary bathrooms. "Our employer gives us no respect," Minnie Williams, a paratransit operator for 12 years, told Socialist Worker. "I haven't had an accident in eight years, and yet we're screamed at. We need better wages and better conditions."

Members of Bricklayers Local 21, Service Employees International Union Local 1 and train and bus drivers' unions from around the city came to the ATU picket to show their support for the paratransit workers.

Dabney said that some of CDT's clients had also planned on attending the rally, but due to the poor weather, many couldn't get there.

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Harvard University janitors

By Mitch Lewis and Larry Lewis

CAMBRIDGE--Hundreds of students joined more than 100 mostly immigrant workers at a rally called by Service Employees International Union Local 254. The rally called for a living wage for janitors at Harvard University.

"In seven years, I haven't got a raise," Harvard janitor Blanca Hurtado told Socialist Worker. "I have three kids, and it's not enough to support us all."

Addressing the crowd in both English and Spanish, State Rep. Jarrett Barrios of Cambridge stressed that the living wage campaign is about "basics--rent, health care, child care and cost of living." He pointed out that janitors' wages have dropped 30 percent since 1992. He also cited the Boston-area universities' policy of employing part-time janitors in order to avoid benefits payments and force workers into longer hours.

The rally, though large and enthusiastic, was only a beginning. With wage negotiations coming in January, we need to keep mass pressure on Harvard in the coming months.

Justice for janitors!

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University of Cincinnati professors

By Eric Kerl

CINCINNATI--Professors at the University of Cincinnati (UC) have been working without a contract since August 31. After a long stalemate, administrators finally agreed to resume negotiations with the UC chapter of the American Association of University Professors.

The university wants faculty to accept a contract that includes cutbacks in health care benefits totaling $2 million. Salaries are also a big issue, with professors demanding a 20 percent increase over three years.

Other issues include control over what goes into personnel files, governance of the university, domestic partner benefits and bias in the pay of female faculty.

The main sticking point is that the UC administration says it can't afford to give the professors more than an 8 percent raise. But the main campus has seen more than $1 billion in new construction during the past 10 years. And the university is planning construction of a brand new mansion near the school.

UC can afford a raise--but they won't give it without a fight.

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