Archive for April, 2006

Response to Pres. Fogel’s all-campus email

April 17, 2006

From: The Student Labor Action Project
To: The UVM Campus Community
Re: Employment Issues and Student Protests

As students of an academic community, we are committed to upholding Our Common Ground of challenging injustice wherever it exists. We are equally grateful for a community such as the University of Vermont that encourages and accepts freedom of expression. Because UVM encourages a diversity of viewpoints, we felt it was necessary to respond to the letter from President Daniel Mark Fogel sent on April 15, 2006. It is important for the University community to know and understand the reasons underlying the campaign for a “livable UVM.”

We are writing as a collective of students concerned with the state of labor and workplace rights on our campus. The lowest-paid members of the UVM workforce are often overlooked and underappreciated. Many have worked here for years and do not earn enough to support themselves or their families. As a community committed to equality and leadership in issues of social justice, we believe that it is necessary that all employees earn at least a livable wage. This is not a partisan issue; we have heard from the workers themselves.

For the past two years, a collective of concerned students, led by the Student Labor Action Project (SLAP), has been campaigning for responsible labor practices. We have worked within the “available channels for responsible communication” for the majority of the campaign. This has included numerous meetings with President Fogel, Provost John Bramley, Vice President Michael Gower, and Chief of Staff Gary Derr to discuss our policy proposals. The meetings did not result in any substantive efforts by the administration to address the issues. We tried to work with the administration, but they continuously demonstrated an unwillingness to work with us. These issues need to be priorities, but they have not been recognized as so until this point.

During the fall of 2005, the Student Government Association (SGA) began crafting a resolution in support of livable wages. The SGA unanimously passed it after researching the issue. It was then that the administration began working with the SGA on the matter but has since continued to stall. The Basic Needs Budget Task Force committee was expected to begin work in February of 2006 but was delayed until an emergency preliminary meeting was called on Thursday, April 13 in response to the Tent City demonstrations. The committee has been postponed again until April 28th, a far cry from an immediate response. This allows fewer than three weeks before the student representatives will be leaving for the summer. We feel that the issue of livable wages has not been taken seriously enough by the administration, and for this reason remain cautiously optimistic about where the committee will go. The lack of administrative investment is a cause for concern.

In addition to livable wages, we are proposing the freedom to organize and responsible contractor agreements to improve workplace rights. The administration has acknowledged both of these issues and has subsequently rejected our proposals.

The first issue of “fair labor practices” is not as respectful and fair as President Fogel suggests. We have heard firsthand accounts of numerous incidents of workplace intimidation across the campus. The “Informed Choice” website propagates many common myths about unions, creating a hostile workplace that allows for undue administrative influence. Organization is a basic quality of a free and open workplace and is a right that needs to be protected.

The second issue is for responsible contractor agreements. These policies ensure that all contractors for future construction meet minimum guidelines for labor practices. These can include livable wages for all workers, provision of health insurance, and apprenticeship programs for young Vermonters. We need labor standards for construction that guarantee that contractors are not cutting corners in the areas of benefits and safety.

On Tuesday, April 11th members of SLAP and approximately seventy other students began a Tent City on the UVM Main Green to show our concern and support for livable wages. The Tent City was permitted for four days and three nights, and was a hub for community support and outreach. The permit expired on Friday, April 14th at 4:30 pm. On Friday, a large event was organized to show a culmination of support. More than two hundred students and community members were present, including Representatives David Zuckerman and Chris Pearson, union leaders, faculty members, and workers.

Attempts were made during the day to extend the permit but were denied. Provost Bramley threatened any campers that remained past 4:30 with expulsion, two years imprisonment, and a $5,000 fine. The campers decided that they would remain until asked to leave by Police Services but that when the officers arrived they would leave peacefully. At approximately 8:00 pm, ten police cruisers arrived with lights flashing. They informed the students that they had to vacate the green. At this point, a representative of SLAP approached the officers and told them that the campers were collecting their belongings and would leave peacefully. Police officers walked onto the green and arbitrarily issued eight trespass notices to students that were actively collecting their personal belongings.

By 9:00 pm all of the police left except UVM Chief of Police Gary Margolis. Three UVM Grounds trucks arrived and the students helped load them up with trash and wood. The campers continued cleaning until the green was left in perfect condition.

At an institution that values so highly freedom of expression, it is a shame that this peaceful, nonviolent display of support for workers was so forcefully ended. We are committed to challenging the injustices that prevail in our community, and it is unfortunate that the administration has taken a stance of such stark opposition. The problem is not the nonviolent display of dissent on the Main Green but rather the unwillingness of a few to cooperate with the greater part of the community for a stronger, livable environment for all.

Press Release on the Forceful Breakup of Tent City

For more than two years, the Student Labor Action Project (SLAP) has been taking up the task of achieving a livable wage for all UVM employees and contracted employees, the right to organize, and Responsible Contractor policies. Several accounts from UVM employees about poverty wages and the general lack of respect for labor rights on campus saddened students but also inspired them to take action. Since Tuesday, students had been camping out in a symbolic act of commitment to end the injustices at the university. On the afternoon of Friday, April 14th, these students held a peaceful protest to culminate their presence in the space, which drew upwards of three-hundred community members. At approximately 8:30 that evening, ten UVM police cruisers arrived at the Tent City on the UVM Green with the intention of removing all remaining students from the space. Eight students, coined “the Tent City Eight,” who were in the process of peacefully removing themselves, were issued trespassing notices stipulating that they may not set foot on the Main Green for six months. All the students vacated the space promptly and were later allowed to return to pack up remaining supplies and tents and to help cleaning crews. The Green was completely vacated and left in perfect condition after students left.

Tent City!

MOVE IN TO TENT CITY!
The city is open to all, we even have spare tents for those without one. Come show your support and camp for justice!

Today, Tuesday April 11, marks the grand opening of the Tent City for a Livable UVM! At least 18 tents plus several tarps and structures went up tonight, filled with many students to show solidarity for livable wages at UVM! There was music, a drum circle, a stage built, and much more! There will be many events taking place throughout the next few days including yoga sessions, more music and dancing, and a building competition to see who can build the best addition to the UVM campus! The prize will be a livable wage: $12.43. The tent city is fully permitted through friday, come out and let us students show our strength! The administration can’t hide locked in their offices forever, they have to notice us, and they need to recognize the importance of this issue.

EVERY WORKER DESERVES A LIVABLE WAGE. UVM, EXPLOITING WORKERS MUST END. POVERTY WAGES HAVE GOT TO GO!

Statement

To: The University of Vermont Community
From: The Student Labor Action Project

Early this morning a collective of concerned students attempted to enter the president’s wing to further discuss the policy proposal presented last week. The students were denied access by President Daniel Mark Fogel’s Chief of Staff Gary Derr. Prior to this, a meeting set up on Friday April 7th, was cancelled by the administration. The University has continued to stall negotiations on the issues of workers rights including livable wages, freedom to organize, and responsible contractor agreements. These are issues of basic social justice and human rights that need to be taken seriously by the administration. The health of our environment begins with the health of our community. There are workers on the UVM campus that still, after many years of working here, continue to not earn enough to support themselves or their families. The students call on the administration to adhere to the UVM Common Ground and challenge injustice that continues on this campus. The students have not received any positive signs on their attempts to negotiate. They will continue in their efforts to discuss these important matters. Join the students for a rally on Tuesday, April 11 at noon on the green.

Today…

Thank you everyone that came out to the rally today! I think it was a great success! A lot of good speeches, solid presence, and we definitely got our message across to Fogel.

Training with Doyle from smartmeme! Saturday 12-4 in Lafayette 210.

Pictures!

Check out the Pictures page for photos of SLAP events!

Schedule for the Week of Action

4/3 DANCE-IN for Livable Wages!

  • We will be meeting outside of Waterman at NOON, then dancing our way into the president's wing. We will be delivering our policy proposal for livable wages and making our presence known! We need to show the administration that we students care about our workers and we demand livable wages now!

4/4 Letter drop day.

4/5 SPEAKOUT!

  • 11-3 on the steps of Waterman. Come speak your mind, tell Fogel what you think about his refusal to adopt livable wages!

4/6 Petition drop day.

4/7 RALLY for LIVABLE WAGES and WORKER'S RIGHTS!

  • Noon on the steps of Waterman! Show your solidarity, demand that UVM adopt livable wages now!

Welcome to the weblog of the Student Labor Action Project, a campaign of Students for Peace & Global Justice, at the University of Vermont! Here you will find up to date goings on of SLAP, your local worker-student solidarity collective!
April 2006
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