Chanting was heard again last Wednesday as students and faculty gathered to protest the mistreatment of Chartwells workers.
“I’m a student here and Chartwells workers do a lot for us,” Willow Burns, a junior NYPIRG member said. “I thought I’d come out to show my support.”
Burns was just one of the 60 students who came to support the fight for workers rights.
The protest, organized by Workers United union representatives, brought students, faculty, workers, and the representatives together in front of the small fountain to talk about the injustices our school is allowing to happen.
“We are trying to send a strong message to the President that he needs to intervene on behalf of workers rights,” union rep. Amanda Lefton commented. “We want to send a clear message to Chartwells to shape up, or ship out.”?
Union Director, Mike Roberts, pointed out how nine years ago the university intervened to stop union busting activity and Chartwells contract should not be renewed. What many there wanted to know is, why hasn’t the university done anything now?
“We are tired of being treated like this,” Tracy Cobbs, a Chartwells worker, proclaimed. Cobbs, like many of her co-workers, is still fighting for pay she should have received in the summer.
“Before we got to this rally, we got a phone call telling us, any employee that was participating in the rally would be terminated,” Cobbs announced to the crowd.
Although these threats were not confirmed, two women were hiding behind a column towards the back of the crowd with a video camera, taping the entire event.
They were not with any news affiliates and they definitely weren’t students.
When Scott Birge, Director of the Campus Center, was spotted in the crowd he was immediately called out to answer some questions.
“I know nothing about a video camera and I have no authority over that (employees participating being terminated),” was all he would say.
Members of university administrative staff may have lacked commentary, but university students and professors, like Jackie Hayes, Ben Jacobs, Brendan Anderson, and Prof. Larry Wittner, took the podium to speak on behalf of all those “standing in solidarity” with Chartwells workers.
Wittner, a professor of history, helped to get the first union representation for non-professional workers, and in 1999 70% of workers were in a union.
“It is sad to think that ten years later we have reverted to anti-union practices of the past,” Wittner confessed.
“The university stresses that we are a community and Chartwells employees are part of this community,” said Anderson, senior member of the College Democrats. “It’s time for UA to stand up and cry foul to what’s happening here.”
After the speeches the group marched to the presidents office at University Hall to discuss his intervention.
No one with signs was allowed in the building. Only Cobbs, Roberts, and the documentary cameraman went inside.
The crowd of now around 50 stood outside, talking and chanting things like “Hey, Hey, Ho, Ho, Chartwells has got to go,” as they waited for the verdict.
When Cobbs and Roberts re-emerged from the building, after seeing the comptroller, and not the president, they announced no one was claiming responsibility for what was going on.
“The President is going to have to face this.” Roberts said. “If he doesn’t we will be back.”