Staff union plans to picket during graduation

Rachel Abbey

The staff union will be picketing during graduation weekend to raise awareness about its ongoing contract negotiations.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees wants to inform parents and students of the troubles it is facing, said David Schuckert, vice president of the Local 153 union and painter at Kent State.

“We’re not asking to get rich or anything like that,” Schuckert said. “We’re just asking for a living wage.”

Other groups will be gathered to support the workers, Schuckert said. The Kent State chapters of the American Association of University Professors intend to picket in support of the union, said Michael Lee, physics professor and co-chair of the AAUP action committee.

Other local unions and some student groups will also be helping with the informational picketing, Schuckert said, and anyone else interested may join.

The groups are meeting behind the greenhouse behind Cunningham Hall and dispersing from there for protesting May 13 to May 15 from 11:30 a.m. until 6 p.m., said Ray Davis, union president and maintenance repair worker.

The union’s contract with the university expired Jan. 26, Davis said, but negotiations have been occurring since November 2004. While progress has been made, the parties reached a standstill in February and brought in a mediator.

Financial issues have held up negotiations, Davis said. The parties are bringing in a fact-finder May 9 to examine the unresolved issues.

The contract between the AAUP and the university expired in September 2004, and the parties had been negotiating since May 2004. The parties recently agreed to return to the bargaining table.

The university hopes to reach a conclusion with these contracts by June 30, the end of the fiscal year, said Scott Rainone, assistant director of University Media Relations.

Staff members are concerned about their health care benefits, Schuckert said.

They understand health care costs will increase, but employees cannot be expected to pay more without receiving a raise in pay, Davis said. Many of the employees work two jobs or have single-parent households to support.

“We have a lot of employees making $8 an hour, and that’s barely livable,” Schuckert said.

Staff would like to see appreciation in the form of money, not extras, such as the Quality Service Award Breakfast, Davis said.

“People aren’t interested in that anymore. People want to see that translated into job security,” Davis said. “It’s got to go into wages and job security, not bacon and eggs.”

No one in the bargaining unit was affected by the recent layoffs, Davis said. The union represents various areas of staff on campus, such as groundskeeping, custodial work, food service and Residence Services.

“We’re all of the behind-the-scenes people,” Davis said.

Tomorrow, a work day will be held to make materials for the picketing, Schuckert said.

Contact academics reporter Rachel Abbey at [email protected].