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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

A Temp's Letter to the Editor of the Michigan Daily

The following was a letter to the editor published in the Michigan Daily by a temp worker here on campus which highlights some of the circumstances through which workers are made into temps.

Note: The IWW has been in contact with SOLE organizers, who have expressed support for the organizing drive. Robert Overmyer was not a member of the IWW when he published this letter to the editor. We republished the letter here due to the merit of his personal story.

SOLE's struggle should start at the 'U' itself

To the Daily:

I commend Students Organizing for Labor Equality for its stance in favor of fair and decent work conditions for the employees of companies doing business with the University. However, as the saying goes, charity begins at home.

As an employee of the University, I have been subjected to a hostile work environment for more than a one-year period. Staff members have been laid-off under curious conditions, rehired as temporary employees without benefits and then laid-off again. When the department rehired workers for the second time, those employees who previously questioned departmental policies and procedures were not called back to work again.

When I was rehired as a temporary employee without benefits, I asked that my benefits be restored. I was told that would not be possible because of University policy. When I asked for a list of employees whose status was changed from "permanent" to "temporary" under University policy, a representative from the Freedom of Information Office told me that no such list existed. However, this list probably does exist. One could only imagine how difficult the ongoing negotiations between MCare and Blue Cross would be without knowing how many University employees receive benefits and how many do not.

During this time, my department also had incidents in which signed time sheets were altered. Some staff members made more than their signed time sheets indicated, others were paid when they were not present at work and an evaluation process was implemented that harassed uncooperative employees through unfavorable evaluations.

Each situation I refer to in this letter was documented and submitted to the Office of University Audits. In addition, this documentation was submitted to the Department of Public Safety, which, after a six-week investigation, concluded that I should talk about the situation with the same supervisors who were cited in the report. Moreover, the information submitted to the Office of University Audits and DPS was then used for retaliation and concealment of facts.

Meanwhile, my department head was traveling to conferences around the world. New office furniture, a flat-screen TV and carpeting were installed in his office. Also, a new kitchen - complete with running water, a stainless-steel mini refrigerator and a dishwasher - was built in the director's office.

As I've said, I believe SOLE's struggle is a fair and worthwhile cause. However, until the University consistently treats its employees in a fair and respectful manner, I would not expect it to require this of the companies that it does business with.

Robert Overmyer
University staff

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Update from the Temps Organizing Drive and Joint IWW/Student Meeting on Saturday

Hey everyone,

Here are the notes from Saturday's joint student/labor meeting. It
sheds a little light on what's currently happening with the campaign
and what we are planning over the summer. We're looking for students
to lend a hand in organizing. If you're interested, get in touch.


Summer Strategy and Tactics for Temps Campaign

Organizers Present :
(Names Withheld)
- Industrial Workers of the World
- Students for a Democratic Society
- Graduate Employees Organization


Contract Changes
Temps in the Business School are in the process of reviewing contract
changes for UM employees regarding the COI (Conflict of Interest) and
COC (Conflict of Commitment) clauses that HR is working on
implementing across campus. We were concerned about the effects the
contract changes might have on the organizing drive, as some of the
language could be construed to suggest that workers can't discuss
information about work-related issues outside of the job. Such a
far-reaching interpretation would be a violation of the Michigan
Employee Relations Act. We contacted Judy Roper from HR in the
business school, and were assured in writing that the COI and COC
won't affect organizing activity. We are prepared to ULP over the
issue if management attempts to implement the contract changes in such
a way. We have lawyers in the NLG looking over the contract changes
now. We are preparing a fact-sheet for workers regarding the contract

Expanding Organizing
Temps moved to expand their organizing at the last meeting. Different
members of the organizing committee took on various groups of workers
on campus for the drive. We recently held a candlelight vigil for a
fellow worker in the business school that died recently, in solidarity
with Sodexho workers on campus.

Strategy and Tactics:

Over the summer, IWW workers will be working on expanding their
organizing committee and solidifying its presence in other buildings
on campus. Wobblies in the business school will be working on
bringing management to the table over work-site issues. B-school wobs
have been contacting management and HR within the business school, and
through SDS, have also informed Mary Sue Colman about conditions on
the job and instigating changes and improvements. We are waiting for
the administration to get back to us on work issues. We expect that
they will do everything in their capacity to give us the run-around
and avoid meeting with us. We are planning on taking further action
after exhausting our administrative contacts. We've tossed around a
few ideas, such as informational pickets, using alumni to pressure the
administration, and other actions. Specific tactics are up in the
air. Some are best left out of these notes. We are going to meet up
with other groups on campus and in the community to try and find
common ground and develop solidarity in our actions. Wobblies will
meet up and discuss specifics at a later time with students and other
unions on campus.

Task List:

- Temps will contact labor-friendly regents before the 19th, when SDS
will conduct a follow-up on our behalf with the board of regents
regarding conditions on the job.
- Fact-sheets regarding the COI and COC need to be out to workers
before Thursday. We are waiting on feedback from our lawyers.
- Temps attempted to make contact with Dean Dolan of the Business
School, but were turned away by his secretary. We will continue to
try and get him to meet with us. We might use student contacts to
arrange a meeting.
- Unions and Students are going to try and organize a worker/student
forum on campus labor issues this spring. We are going to try to work
something out with AFSCME, GEO, LEO, SOLE, the IWW, and SDS to bring
everyone to the table. We are going to raise the issue at the next
All Campus Labor Council Meeting on April 18th. If you are
interested, drop on by.
- Student/Worker Dinner this spring. The IWW is going to discuss
putting on a student/worker dinner to discuss our campaign with the
student community.

If you are interested in lending a hand with the organizing drive over
the summer, drop the IWW a line :

Monday, March 26, 2007

On the Death of a Fellow Worker...

The vigil will be at 3 P.M. next Saturday (4/7/07) directly in front of the Hatcher graduate library in the diag. Look for us around the "M".

Dear friends and fellow workers,

We recently have been informed that a fellow worker of ours from the cafeteria in the basement of the business school, James Kirk, has sadly passed away Friday afternoon. Aswould be expected, a lot of the workers are absolutely shocked at the news of his passing. We took it upon ourselves to inform you all about the news, as I know that most of us (at least laptop support) go down on our 15 minute breaks to get a bite to eat, some snacks, or even a hot meal from the kitchen. But it's not just the workers who get their food prepared by these workers every day, it's students as well.

We are planning to host a candle lit vigil on the M in the diag (in front of the Grad Library and shapiro) and have a moment of silence for James sometime this week which would include all of the Ross Business school employees and also the students organizing in the temps campaign to show appreciation for his work here at the University. This is an issue near and dear to us, not only because James was a fellow worker, but because James might have been able to receive a proper diagnosis and treatment for his condition had he been given access to UHS; a struggle closely tied to the temps campaign.

If you are interested in attending or have any other ideas of ways to have a remembrance for our fellow worker and friend go ahead and let us know. You can call an IWW organizer at (734) 272-2321.

This is a very sad time for all of us, so I believe staying
together and staying strong is a rather important for us at this
time. We will keep everyone posted.

Rest In Peace

The Temps

Friday, March 16, 2007

Rally and Board of Regents Report Back

The temps organizing committee would like to thank Naomi, from Students for a Democratic Society, who gave a moving address on our behalf to the board of regents yesterday. Naomi worked with us directly in writing her speech, and highlighted the conditions many temps on campus face and specifically discussed events unfolding at the Ross School of Business. High-five, Naomi.

We would also like to thank the student groups that turned out for the Campus Unite! rally and showed their support for our campaign.

We will keep everyone posted on upcoming actions.

The Temps

Thursday, March 15, 2007

We are the Strangers at the Water Cooler...

Today, we stumbled across an article published by the Ross School of Business called The Stranger at the Water Cooler, which discussed integrating temp workers into the workplace community. We thought it was ironic, given the effort temps at the UM Business school are going through to try and bring themselves into the school's very own workplace community.

The author presented temps as though they choose their own status as sub-workers. As if being a temp, or as the article put it a "free agent," was somehow desirable for the 1/5th of the American workforce relegated to sub-worker status. Carl T. Camden, CEO of a temp company, who was quoted in the article, says "permanent employment already is an oxymoron," highlighting the growing trend of companies using temporary workers as opposed to full-time employees. His position equates being a temporary worker with freedom on the job, attempting to sell the idea (or justify it) by discussing the freedom of the temp to move from organization to organization at will. The idea couldn't fall further from the truth. Workers don't choose to be temps, nor do they choose to leave their jobs. They are forced to take on the temp roll because bosses offer them no other choice and often they lose their jobs when middle management decides they are no longer useful. The temp's condition and their lack of choice emphatically disproves Camden's assertion, and emphasizes the lack of freedom a temp truly has.

Permanent employment is a hallmark of stability. People deserve steady and dependable jobs. Its hard enough living paycheck to paycheck, but the looming possibility of termination and having to jump from job to job is nothing short of a tragedy experienced by today's temporary worker.

SDS To Address Board of Regents on Conditions of UM Temps

A representative from Students for a Democratic Society will be addressing the board of regents this evening and briefly discuss the conditions temp workers face on campus as well as the events that are unfolding between management and workers at the Ross School of Business. We will keep everyone posted.

The Temps