QU workers continue to rally for fair contracts

Jenn Bartlett

They say that time heals all wounds. They have obviously never met the determined facility workers, secretaries, librarians and grounds keepers of Quinnipiac, who have demanded fair working conditions that they rightfully deserve. The time over winter break has only infuriated their emotions and their demands.
These demands were first realized when the Quinnipiac University Administration constructed a new contract. In the past, it has been re-created approximately every three years. Yet this new contact, which was supposed to go into effect in the fall semester of 2000, had a few alterations.
Though the school claims that the workers are demanding over 140 changes; Steve Mathews of the Local 217, Hotel and Restaurant Employees and Bartenders Union organizer, stated that the basic demands are the ones being over looked. The only thing that can heal these workers’ wounds is the abolishment of the wage freeze, and have Century Preferred Insurance as the worker’s primary insurance carrier.
Despite the assumed notion that the workers received the demands that they requested because the rallying has stopped, the workers fight against the University is still on.
There was a rally before winter break. According to Mathews, “The workers have rallied but now we are in a state of negotiations. The workers are insulted by the current wage proposal, and while we are in a negotiation position we will still continue to make our voice heard on campus.”
Though the rallying has stopped, other forms of publicity have continued to spread the awareness of the unfair treatment of the workers. Leaflets have been passed out at basketball and hockey games.
On Feb. 7 and Feb. 8, technical workers marched into President Lahey’s office to demand what they felt was fair. More recently, facility workers also marched into the President Lahey’s office.
Angie Cowan, a student organizer of a student support group of the workers, stated: “Even though Lahey wasn’t there, there were many other administrative people there. I believe the rallying makes them realize that they have to settle. The workers are upset and the students are too.”
Student opposition of the way Quinnipiac is handling this situation is evident in their activeness to the circumstances. Student meetings are held on every Monday at 4:30 in the cafeteria. During these meetings, students, workers and union representatives gather to discuss ideas and tactics to help the workers receive what they are rightfully owed. These concepts include students wearing buttons as a sign of worker support.
In doing this, Cowan said she hoped to “make students more aware and more active.” In publicizing their efforts, Mathews hoped that they are “sending the message that the Quinnipiac negotiation team is not offering what the workers families need in order to grow.”
The negotiations have actually been going on since May 2000. There has been some progress, but the University won’t budge on the most important issues of the contract, which are the wage freeze and the insurance dilemma. The union won’t budge on their efforts to receive what they think is fair.
When asked how far they will go to receive their demands, Mathews replied, “We will continue to negotiate in good faith, in hopes of receiving a fair raise in wages and to obtain the best insurance that is rightfully ours. If they are not more reasonable than we will continue to go public.”
“Right now negotiations are secretive and hidden. If we need too, we will talk to the press and start rallying again in attempts to shed light on the situation and increase the pressure on the University. We need to have our voices heard,” he continued.
Cowan stated that she is hopeful that the Feb. 22 and Mar. 8 negotiations will be positive for the workers and that their efforts will have paid off. If not, “we will continue with our strong actions,” she said.
Yet one of the most disturbing things that the University has done, was to not allow those voices to be heard. When the student-run radio show on 92.3 FM, invited Mathews and another worker to talk about the rallying on air, a complication came when Cowan was not allowed to move her lunch hour.
Usually the lunch hour changes are never a problem with administration, but the school doesn’t legally have to permit them. However, by declining the worker her ability to talk to the students of Quinnipiac about the unfair contract and the endless negotiations, Mathews stated: “This action by the university indicates to us that they don’t want the light of publicity. The university is embarrassed because it knows the students will be on the workers sides, it knows the workers are right.”
Cowan agreed with Mathews. “I created a student petition last semester and showed it to President Lahey. It emphasized that students know that the University is wrong. That is why there is such a tremendous amount of student support,” she said.
Yet, as Mathews modestly stated, “It’s all about the workers, it is not about me.”
Louise Mcray, a librarian at the Arbold Bernhard Library, states that her first reaction to the proposal of the new contract was amazement, due to its unfairness.
When asked how hopeful she was about the outcome of the situation, she stated, “I don’t think we are going to get everything we are asking for but we should get something that is more fair than what they [Quinnipiac] proposed to give initially.”
Another worker, Bonnie Caruso stated, “The University has a lot of money to spend. I think they have to offer a lot more then what they have. We enjoy working at Quinnipiac, and our work is 100% and done with much pride. We need to be compensated for that.” She also had a hopeful outlook for the future.
She believed that the workers will recieve what they are requesting. “Once we sit down and negotiate we will receive what is fair,” Caruso said.
Quinnipiac University claims that it helps in the enhancement of student’s ability to grow and expand for their future lives. Why shouldn’t the workers get that same chance? The new contract that the Quinnipiac Administration is proposing suppresses that chance. They can’t grow financially if they are never promoted to a better wage. They can’t expand their services if they are ill and in a second rate health insurance doctor’s care.
Mathews concluded by saying, “The University is not putting the most reasonable offers on the table. We could just solve this problem is the University just offered what is fair, and since it fails to offer those rightful demands we will continue our efforts to receive what is fair.”