By Caroline Ryan
On March 26, LIU Post’s custodial and mechanical unit workers, as well as Local 1102 RWDSU\UFCW members, stood outside the main entrance of campus protesting for a fair contract. The group of protestors called upon the school’s administration to create a fair contract, and allow for fair treatment of the members in their union.
As stated on the Local 1102 website, “The Local 1102 RWDSU/ UFCW is a labor union affiliated with the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union District Council of the United Food and Commercial Workers. Their primary function is to represent the needs of its members by fighting for fair treatment in the workplace, job security, quality healthcare, and a dignified retirement.” Local 1102 has represented the custodial and transportation mechanical units at LIU Post for almost 20 years.
According to the communications director for the Local 1102, Janna Pea, the union workers have been attempting to negotiate for a fair contract since Oct. 2012. She alleged that the school’s management has been unwilling to comply with the needs of its union workers. Yet, according to Gale Haynes, Vice President, Chief Operating Officer, and Legal Counsel for LIU, “the University has made repeated efforts to arrive at a mutually workable solution, one that fairly compensates the 75 Local 1102 employees in a fiscally responsible manner.”
“I have been working here nearly 16 years, and have always been proud to be a part of Local 1102,” said Bob Picard, a custodian in the maintenance department. “For three years now, my coworkers and I have been fighting for a new contract that includes a pay raise and adequate health benefits, which is long overdue. It’s time for the administration to quit stalling and give the workers what we’ve earned,” Picard said.
The administration vehemently denies the union’s claims. “The University’s goal is to meet our employees’ needs in a way that will not negatively affect our ability to provide a high quality, affordable education to our students. After a decade of tuition rate increases averaging 5.2 percent annually, the university is proud of our commitment to annual tuition rate increases of 2 percent or less through 2020,” Haynes said.
According to the RWDSU, Local 1102 members currently have a benefit package that includes healthcare (free medical coverage for employees and their family members) funded entirely by LIU Post. On average, LIU Post contributes over $14,000 a year for each employee to have good quality medical coverage. The cost of the benefits increases each year, and therefore need to be adequately funded – these contributions have not increased since 2012. LIU is not offering a wage increase for the union members to keep up with the high cost of living on Long Island. They are, however, offering a higher rate of pay to employees who are new hires. This rate will create an environment where long-term employees are less desireable and valued.
“Through its mission of access and excellence, the LIU community remains committed, above all else, to the educational needs and interests of our student body. The university will continue to bargain with Local 1102 and carefully balance both the needs of its employees with its mission of ensuring an affordable student experience that is unparalleled in academic opportunities. Our first priority is the education of our students, and it is important to us that there be no disruption to university life,” Haynes added.