Union picketers protest outside Warren’s inauguration

A Members of AFSCME, a workers union on campus, pickets outside the M.A.C. Center on May 1, 2015 as President Beverly Warren is inaugurated inside. Wage negotiations are currently being conducted between the university and the union.

Alexandra Valverde

Friday afternoon, the M.A.C. Center was filled with guests for President Beverly Warren’s inauguration. But just outside, university workers, faculty members, and students stood together to demand higher wages and better treatment.

“(I’m here) to get better wages and I’m just tired of going from pay to pay and sometimes it doesn’t even make it to pay to pay,” said Ann Bixby, a custodial staff member at the university.

The group chanted, held signs and encouraged others to join in.

While the protesters had to stay 300 feet away from select campus facilities because of a restraining order from the university, they spread their message in front of the M.A.C. Center through chalk writing. They decorated the sidewalks with phrases like “Fair Wage Now” and “#BeBoldKSU by Paying Our Workers,” taking advantage of a recent initiative executed by President Warren.

David Schuckert, the President of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 153 in Kent, Ohio, helped organize the protest.

“We’re getting together today to get our voice out there and be heard,” Schuckert said.

As they shouted their chants to on looking students, their voices were heard. Many passing cars honked their horns and student raised their fists in response.

The biggest issue that workers want to see fixed is unfair wages.

“Compared to the other universities in the state of Ohio, were one of the lowest paid for all of our occupations that we have,” Schuckert said. He also said that trying to talk to the Board of Trustees and create a compromise is difficult.

But he said they aren’t losing hope. Support is coming in from many different groups, both within the university and from the outside.

Union picketers protest outside Warren’s inauguration from KentWired.com on Vimeo.

State Representative Kathleen Clyde and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Connie Schultz, along with Schult’s husband, Senator Sherrod Brown, both spoke at the inauguration and then came out to speak with the picketers.

“Every worker in this country and on this campus should make a living wage and I talk with President Warren today and I’m going to say that I expect a just solution,” Schultz said.

Students also stood among the protesters. Freshman Alex Akin said she had a personal reason for being there today.

“I have friends who are campus workers who are doing the work-study program and one of them is going to be homeless over the summer because she can’t afford to save up enough money,” Akin said .

Many of the protesters said were happy to stand for hours and protest.

“Being out here to show my support and my advocacy for economic justice is important,” said Susan Iverson, a faculty member in the College of Education, Health and Human Services.

University Spokesman Eric Mansfield said that the restraining order, which is in effect until May 9th, was authorized to ensure events relating to the inauguration and graduation would not be interrupted. He said the university believes the court struck a fair balance between protecting the workers’ free speech rights and ensuring safety at the events.  

Contact Alexandra Valverde at [email protected]