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Sunday, January 16, 2022

Mr. Ray Ferrero, Time to Do the Right Thing for These Workers at Nova Southeastern University

By Hudes DesrameauxSpecial to CSMS Magazine It’s often said – and rightly so – that the defining mark of a just society lies in its embrace of public policy that aggressively addresses the comprehensive needs of the children and the elderly.Equally praiseworthy is a society that steadfastly stands with its working poor, each time their basic rights are being trampled or ignored by an institution or an owner too greedy to part way – in the name of fairness and decency – with a few thousand dollars more.See: I didn’t say “in the name of justice” since an hourly wage of $10-11 can never meet the needs of a family of 4 in a context of ridiculously high prices for a dingy 2-bedroom apartment. Don’t even talk about the rest of the family staying in Haiti or Honduras.What are we talking about?About 350 janitors, bus drivers and landscapers are on the verge of losing their job after Nova Southeastern University president Mr. Ray Ferrero decided to annul its contract with Unicco, the agency that hires these workers to clean this university campus in Broward County, Florida.While the media keep reporting that Mr. Ferrero came to this unfair decision before the workers decided to form a union, it was public knowledge that the workers had been pushing for a year for Unicco to recognize their wish to join SEIU, acronym for Service Employees International Union.Indeed, this struggle may appear to be about Nova University and Unicco, but it’s not. It’s really about these workers, a third of them are Haitians, forming a union and asking higher wages, health insurance and better working conditions.We know that much last weekend at an event sponsored by SEIU to seek support in the community for the workers. Community activists, workers from the recently formed union and other area unions, pastors, and politicians packed that Little Haiti church and asked Mr. Ferrero to do right by these workers.Mr. Ferrero’s stance is mind-boggling and irresponsible.It’s not that he isn’t intelligent; a university president is among the smartest in society. It’s not that he is a cave-dweller: He must know that SEIU and the University of Miami workers extracted from his colleague Dona Shalala and Unicco higher wages and health care benefits less than six months ago.He must also know that Mitch Maidique from Florida International University quickly and quietly settled with its janitors by agreeing to raise the latter’s salary and providing them with health insurance.Instead, Mr. Ferrero chose to do two things. He decided to wage a losing fight, and in so doing, brought shame to the whole Nova community—its student body, Faculty, Board, its administrative/professional/clerical staff and alumni.Two, he decided to fight Ms. Michele Monel, who gave me a virtual tour of the type of work she does daily at Nova. Judge for yourself.Ms. Monel reports to work at 10 PM, some 1 or 2 hours before Mr. Ferrero had his nice dinner before sitting comfortably on his cushy sofa. She goes back home at 6:30 AM, way before Mr. Ferrero drove in to a sparkling campus and office.What happened between 10 PM and 6:30 AM is back and heart breaking. Ms. Monel is responsible to clean the whole 5th floor of the Carl DeSantis building. She refuses to count the number of offices; it’s just too many. What’s unbearable for Ms. Monel is also the unrelenting daily dose of yelling and disrespect she gets from her supervisors.Experiences that must have a terrible toll on her poor health. At 57, she is suffering from high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol. With no health insurance, Ms. Monel is constantly out of her life-saving insulin.Her wage? Yes, what about her wage? Ms. Monel is making about $7 an hour, up from $6.79 she was making about a month ago – a total of 0.21 cents increase, some type of cost of living adjustment.Ms. Monel has been living in this country for about 13 years. She holds a green card, one step away from being a US citizen. She can’t make enough to have her own place and has to share an inefficient efficiency with her sister. What would she do if her children weren’t living in Haiti?Ms. Monel has a letter from Unicco advising her that her last day at Nova is December 28, 2006. Some type of Christmas gift for a woman who breaks her back every day to make life bearable for students and Mr. Ferrero.A Nova spokesperson declared that Ms. Monel might come back at Nova with that agency due to replace Unicco. Fine, but she isn’t going through this fight to return to the same measly $7 and no health care coverage. What’s fair to this lady is an hourly salary of $10-11 and health and dental care coverage.Anything less is unacceptable.Note: Hudes Desrameaux is a writer and editor at Haitian Times, a New York-based weekly newspaper. He wrote this piece exclusively for CSMS Magazine.

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