University Building and Food Service workers return to picket line

Aaron+Ammons%2C+right%2C+with+megaphone%2C+leads+members+of+the+Service+Employees+International+Union+Local+73+during+the+third+picket+of+the+year.+

Aaron Ammons, right, with megaphone, leads members of the Service Employees International Union Local 73 during the third picket of the year.

By Bryan Wong, Staff Reporter

University Building Service Workers and Food Service Workers protested on the corner of Kirby Avenue and Oak Street Friday afternoon in an effort to raise awareness of the ongoing issues with University contract negotiations.

According to Ricky Baldwin, assistant director of the downstate division at the Service Employees International Union Local 73, the union is trying to negotiate a new contract after the other one ended in July earlier this year. Some compromises have been made but Baldwin thinks that there is still much to be desired.

“We’re trying to show the University that we’re not playing,” Baldwin said. “We’ve been in negotiations for a new contract since February and they’re offering us no raises at all and we’re facing significant increases in health care costs.”

Baldwin said there could be an average increase of $3,000 for a state worker, which is a significant change considering the average worker earns around $17,000 to $35,000.

Aaron Ammons, the president of Local 73, echoed Baldwin’s message. 

“We shovel snow, we feed students, we clean the buildings, we do everything that we can,” Ammons said. “We want to be paid fairly.”

Justus Fortado, a member of Local 73, believes that staffing and pay are the two issues that have to be addressed during negotiations. Fortado now has to clean more than 55,000 square feet each night, compared to the 33,000-square-foot-per-night average 22 years ago.

Although he makes more money today, his pay, accounting for inflation, was greater 10 years ago. This is due to an increase in copayment for health insurance and cost of living, among other things.  Fortado said this would not be a problem if the worker’s wages kept up with inflation, like the wages of the administrators.

However, progress has been made since the start of the negotiations. According to Baldwin, through two additional pickets organized by Local 73 in August and September, the University and the union have been able to agree on minor details such as grievance procedures.

“There was three steps in (the grievance procedure) and it was taking too long so we agreed to take one of the steps out so that issues get resolved faster,” Baldwin said. “Unfortunately when it comes to money, the University has been very stubborn from the very beginning and refused to talk to us about staffing at all from the start.”

Despite all the payment and staffing problems, Baldwin hopes the negotiations will be resolved soon.

“Well we’re hoping to wrap it up within the next few weeks,” Baldwin said. “We’re not trying to get rich. We’re just trying to not lose money.”

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