UF committee meets to consider stopping the "Night Shaft"--but will it?
October 2 was the first meeting of a UF Committee appointed to investigate the shifting of UF's custodial staff to midnight shift. The meeting was packed with spectators supporting the custodial workers, who do not want to work graveyard shift. People crammed into the room with signs and a banner with dozens pages of filled petitions against the night shift attached to it. Members of the committee include UF faculty, administrators, students, and custodians who have been put on night shift. The president of the custodians local union, AFSCME 3340, is an 'ex-officio' member of the committee.
In November, 1998, UF moved 40 custodial workers from the regular day shift (5am-1:30pm) to night shift (11pm-7:30am) to make their services more "transparent." On August 13, 2000, while most of the students were still away, 34 more "positions" were moved. In a true example of plantation style management, the University has announced plans to eventually move 80% of the whole custodial staff--which is 90% Black and 61% female--to nights. To add insult to injury, UF says the move is being done because it's what you, the customer (student, faculty, other staff or visitor to the University), want.
UF claims the night shift move is voluntary, even though 92% of custodial workers are against the move. If a custodial worker does request to stay on days, s/he will be moved to a different building with a different supervisor until that building goes to nights. UF provides night shift employees a 10% pay differential, but the square foot coverage of employees working the night shift increased 14%. In addition, UF custodial workers start at less than $12,800 annually, $2000 less than custodians at any other state agency. Due to the poor salary, many UF custodians are forced to work second and even third jobs, but the night shift has made it difficult for some workers to keep their second jobs.
UF administrators persist in this racist, classist plan, even though UF visitors, staff, faculty, and students have demonstrated their opposition. Thousands of signatures opposing the night shift have been collected. Charles Young, the interim president of UF, had, as of July, received over 600 emails signaling disapproval of the move, and has not responded to any of them. A rally was held in front of Tigert Hall on August 6, but Phase II of the night shift was still implemented on August 13.
As the custodial workers were beginning their workday (in the middle of the night), four UF administrators were welcomed to the night shift at 11pm and 3am. A subsequent late-night visit to administrators resulted in trespass warnings for those involved. Every Sunday night (the beginning of the week for custodial workers) since August 13, a group of people bring coffee, doughnuts, bagels, and fruit to share with the custodial workers to show solidarity with their struggle.
In response to the opposition to the night shift, UF agreed to appoint the committee to monitor the impact of the night shift, a promise made almost two years ago when the first phase begun. The committee is overseen by David O'Brien, one of the very administrators responsible for the night shaft. In addition, at the first meeting of the committee, the history of the night shaft was given by Dug Jones, another administrator responsible for the switch, and one who no longer works at UF. Despite the outpouring of support for the custodial workers, nothing was decided at the first meeting.
UF claims customer response to the first move to the night shift was "clearly positive." This is based on 18 surveys, sent to one person in each building affected by Phase I. But the surveys ask only if the service was satisfactory, and several surveys contained notes indicating a preference for having custodial workers present during the day.
UF also claims the night shift will save money, despite past experiences that have proved otherwise. UF has refused to comply with many of AFSCME's public records requests, in violation of the law. These issues are immaterial, however, as the affect the night shift has and will have on the custodial workers and their families far outweighs any minute (hypothetical) advantage the night shift could have to offer. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has recommended against permanent night shift on the grounds of the physical and mental health problems the night shift creates, including but not limited to chronic lack of satisfying sleep.
As of now, however, the University of Florida has refused to listen to reason and the "night shaft" continues. It is our job not just as "customers" of the University, but as human beings to stand up to and fight this policy change for the basic human rights violation that it is. To help, contact the administrators listed below to let them know you oppose the night shift. Then contact the organizations working to stop the night shift to find further ways you can help.
Together, we can and will stop this!
Contact the following administrators and let them know what you think about the night shift:
Charles Young- 392-1311, firstname.lastname@example.org
Ed Poppell- 392-1336, email@example.com
David O'Brien- 392-1141, firstname.lastname@example.org
Contact the following organizations to get involved in fighting the Night Shift:
AFSCME Local 3340, 1107 NW 6th St. Suite B, 32609, 375-3359,
Alachua County Labor Party, 373-4841, email@example.com
Student Peace Action, 335-2553, firstname.lastname@example.org
UPDATE on Michael Geison, the Gainesville activist and yoga teacher who was denied admission to the UF College of Law "despite (or because of) being well qualified" reports that he is being denied written information about his admissions request. He is now attempting to invoke federal protection of his rights and penetrate UF's "veil of secrecy" by filing a Freedom of Information Act request for the relevent information.
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