People Over Profits! SEIU Union Workers at Canisius College Take a Stand in Contract Negotiations
By: Alexander Jasinski
The lobby to the President of Canisius College roar with calls for “People over Profits.” The rally December 6th 2017 was comprised of campus faculty, students and alumni. They rallied against the administration’s failure to pass a new contract that has been in negations and is now 6 months overdue.
President John Hurley and the senior leadership at Canisius College’s “best and final “contract proposal to the Unionized Workers of Canisius College, who are represented by the Local 200 United SEIU, included provisions to cut the employees pensions earnings from a “2 percent [deposit from workers into retirement] and 8 percent retirement match benefit to [a] 1 percent / 4 percent match.” This pay cut has been enacted against all unprotected non-union workers of Canisius College, unilaterally, on June 1st 2017. President Hurley “pledged to return to the 2 percent / 8 percent match as soon as possible” and stated that “the senior leadership of the College is directed to take all steps possible to identify resources to restore the [retirement match] contribution at the earliest possible time.”
Union members stated that they negotiated for this benefit over many contracts and years and will not be giving up this compensation for nothing in return. The union members have voted to enact a strike at any time deemed appropriate as they are without a current contract and will not be undercut so the college can ‘save’ “$88,000 a year” when professors have been offered retirement buyouts that costed the college $5 million. The unionized workers believed they are being squeezed and do not see President Hurley reversing his decision on non-unionized workers pension compensation any time soon.
The rally had an estimated 100 people in attendance who gathered on the corner of Hughes and Jefferson Ave across from the Andrew L. Bouwhuis Library of Canisius College; grabbing the attention of students and all inside of the building to take notice of the rally amassing outside of a local residence. They gathered and practiced the protest’s chants and raised moral prior to taking to the sidewalk and then flowing into Bagen Hall, the main administration building that holds the office of President John Hurley.
They crowd filled the room with their message and delivered a letter composed by professors and union leaders to the door of President John Hurley’s office. Union leaders aired the workers’ grievances and rallied the crowd in several chants.
This rally was not just for unionized workers but for all the faculty and administration who are without the protection of a union and have been unable to combat these damaging changes to their retirement plans.
Unions protect workers’ rights and pay for a minimum cost when you are guaranteed collective bargaining and have the strength and support of your fellow worker over management and the administration. “Forever! United! We’ll Never Be Divided!” is a frequent and impactful chant by many union leaders, their members, and attracted crowds. It captures the essence of “strength in numbers” and showcases that you are willing to strike and lose your job for the job of your fellow worker.
Currently, the unionized-workers of Canisius College have voted to enact a strike when it is deemed necessary and appropriate. After today’s protest and after 6 months without a new contract for the unionized workers of Canisius College has resulted in their current but expired contract remaining in effect, leaving tensions high as the workers hold steady against the administration in contract negations.
Time will tell if the first lay president of Canisius College, John J. Hurley will be ousted with “80% of the faculty having ‘very low’ or ‘low.’ trust in the judgment of the administration” from the “Faculty Satisfaction & Morale Survey of Spring 2017” and a strike that seems more and more likely as time passes without Canisius College making concessions to their unionized workers.
The Griffin: Canisius College Student Paper
Facilities members authorize strike and reject contract offer
WBFO 88.7 Buffalo’s NPR News Station
SEIU union protests Canisius College