UMD workers advocate for a living wage and the right to organize

Araselly Garay cleans the buildings at the University of Maryland as if her children lived there.

Her job as a longtime babysitter is a labor of love, but her working conditions often leave her appalled. She recently had to walk longer distances to clean a few bathrooms in the Denton community. which can make his asthma worse and finds the frequent change of assignment disturbing.

Garay attended a work picnic on Friday organized by four groups of campus workers to fight for better working conditions, including a more decent wage.

“We deserve it,” Garay said in Spanish.

The labor picnic brought together members of United Students Against Sweatshops, Fearless Student Employees, the American Association of College Teachers and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees 1072, which is the union representing university employees such as Garay.

USAS leaders have three main demands for university administrators: raise the minimum wage to $22.65 an hour, improve working conditions for adjunct and contingent faculty, and support legislation that gives all workers the right to unionise. The university is raising the campus minimum wage to $15 — a step workers say is not enough.

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Nate Beard, the chairman of the FSE Alliances, said the union picnic is crucial in getting labor groups to talk and work together.

“The university, at least the administration and [the University System of Maryland], tries to divide us in different ways,” said Beard, a fourth-year information science doctoral student. “Showing solidarity is important.

Shernette Lyons, also a cleaner at the university, spoke at the event about how unionizing could benefit them.

Lyons, another AFSCME member, said the constant use of equipment to clean buildings caused him pain. Lyons said she no longer needed to vacuum after handing her boss a letter from her doctor, but still had to sweep the floors, which she found “exhausting”.

“Hopefully we have a better management team and they can listen to us when we talk,” Lyons said.

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The university declined to comment on the issues raised at the work picnic.

FSE President Jan-Michael Archer also spoke at the picnic and said graduate school dean Steve Fetter had not listened to the needs of graduate students.

“The university loves to pretend we’re students first and not workers first,” said Archer, a fifth-year doctoral student in environmental health. “But that’s actually 100% wrong. We are human beings first, and workers’ rights intersect with human rights.

Archer said he wanted to attend the work picnic because he wanted to stand with other abused workers on campus.

“We have to make sure the university is held accountable and part of that is getting the word out through things like this.” he said.”

Michael A. Bynum