By David Capobianco
On Thursday, March 2, members of the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 30, which represents the maintenance workers at both the LIU Post and the LIU Brooklyn campuses, held a protest by the west gate of campus at noon. The protesters blew up a big inflatable rat, a common practice at union protests against employers, and handed out flyers to protest working without a contract.
The demonstrators included workers from both the Post and Brooklyn campuses who are upset over working without a ratified union contract for 18 months. The flyers handed out reflect their frustration, saying “It’s time to respect labor at LIU,” and “LIU administration’s failed approach to labor relations is embarrassing the LIU community. Workers on campus deserve respect.”
University Communications Strategist Jennifer Solomon provided a statement on behalf of President Kimberly Cline in response to the protests: “Long Island University has had a long standing and positive relationship with Local 30 and we have consistently achieved mutually successful agreements in the past. We look forward to upholding this tradition as we continue to negotiate in good faith towards a fair and responsible contract.”
Robert Wilson, the business representative for IUOE Local 30, explained their efforts further. “Basically the administration has taken a stern position on removing benefits for guys that have been employees for decades,” he said. The benefits removed include pay raises and sick days that workers have earned over the years. Wilson said they are looking for a fair contract, fair wage increases, and for the university to offer the benefits it once did. “They don’t recognize these guys are part of the LIU community,” he said.
Negotiations on new a contract for workers on both campuses have been ongoing, but not much progress is being made. “They just don’t want to move anymore,” Wilson said. “So we’re here to demonstrate and let them know that we’re just not going to tolerate it.” The union has also held a demonstration on the Brooklyn campus in September.
Andres Puerta, the IUOE Local 30 organizer, said “It’s really an embarrassment that the administration has failed to put together decent labor relations.” Both Puerta and Wilson stressed the importance of student involvement in their efforts as well. “We would love to get the student community involved in this,” Wilson said. Puerta agreed, saying students also need to push back.
The IUOE Local 30 is asking students and faculty to contact President Cline and demand that the administration reach fair agreements with workers on campus. Students can also visit the IUOE Local 30 website at iuoelocal30.com, or follow them on Twitter @IUOELocal30.