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.