UM criticized for poverty-like wages

caines | 4/25/2013, 5:30 a.m.

Response from the U and Chartwells

The Miami Times sent a list of questions to Chartwells Higher Education Dining Services [partnered with UM since 1994], addressing issues that included: charges of employee harassment; whether they felt there was a problem at UM; whether they had been in communication with workers and/or UMs administration; and how much workers were paid. Here is a summary of their response from their representative, Kristine Andrews, Compass USA [the parent firm of Chartwells]: Financial terms regarding contracts with our partners, associate wages and personnel information, including personal financial situations, are considered confidential. Chartwells has an obligation to provide uninterrupted dining services for the campus and ensure that the safety of our associates and guests is our number one priority. A list of questions was also sent to the University of Miami addressing issues that included: whether UM administration had attempted to persuade Chartwells to negotiate with food service workers; why UM had allegedly intervened in 2006 with disgruntled janitors but has not done so in this case; whether UM was concerned with the significant number of women of color who as employees and the sole source of income for their families say their pay is less than adequate; and whether UM was concerned about a potential strike. Here is a summary of their statement from Elizabeth Amore, executive director of media relations: We understand that SEIU has been, over the past months, seeking to organize Chartwells operations, particularly at UM . . . Accordingly, the University is not taking a position other than to strongly request of both sides to abide by the rules, which, most importantly includes no harassment or intimidation of workers so that they may make a decision in an atmosphere free from coercion or pressure.

Unfinished business

The Rev. Rhonda Thomas, a community organizer and employee of SEIU, has been working with local clergy for the past several months. She says she doesnt understand why UMs administration wont at least meet with the communitys religious leaders. Our recent activities mirror what Dr. King was doing when he was assassinated advocating for better treatment of workers, she said. Shalala spoke with the Miami Herald but she wont speak to Black clergy. Why wont she speak to our community? We take this personally. The workers we represent live in Coconut Grove, in Overtown and in Liberty City. It seems like theyre being ignored. Thompson, one of the speakers at the April 4th rally and the pastor of New Harvest Baptist Church, is asking South Florida clergy and members of the community to come together on Friday, May 10th [the date of commencement exercises at UM] at 5 p.m. for a march and rally in support of the food service workers. They plan to meet at the intersection of Stanford Drive and U.S. 1. Thompson, president of the AACCC [African American Council of Christian Clergy], can be reached at 305-681-3500. By D. Kevin McNeirkmcneir@miamitimesonline.com