​UF socialist workers storm president's office to demand 'living wage'

The protest comes after allegations that the university's food provider is guilty of time card manipulation.

Students and university employees gathered outside the office of the university president to demand a $15/hr minimum wage.

Large groups of protesters gathered at the University of Florida, directly outside Dr. Kent Fuchs office- the University president- to demand a minimum wage of $15 an hour and better working conditions. 

According to the Independent Florida Alligator, the protest drew groups from all around. The United Faculty of Florida, Young Democratic Socialists Association, Alachua County Labor Coalition and more all joined together to strike for higher wages. Employees of the University also participated. 

The protest centered around Aramark, the school’s on-campus food service provider, as complaints have surfaced that the school is not paying their workers properly and are being mistreated. 

Fuchs was emailed numerous times about holding a meeting to address this. He responded that it was ‘not appropriate’ for him to participate in said meetings.

“It would not be appropriate for me to meet with the Alachua County Labor Coalition,” Fuchs told The Alligator.

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Complainants allege that though workers are supposed to be paid time and a half for overtime hours, as the Department of Labor mandates, the school is not fulfilling this duty. 

Jeremiah Tattersall, a field representative for North Central Florida’s American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organization, stated that the university must do better.

“There’s no excuse for President Fuchs not to meet with students who are concerned about working conditions of his food service workers,” he stated in the school paper. 

Campus Reform interviewed Tattersall, who is heavily involved in community unionization. He attested to claims of mistreatment among Aramark employees, stating that the workers are victims of time-card manipulation, which he said involves workers having their overtime hours deferred to the following week as regular hours to avoid paying the legally required time and a half compensation.

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“We have taken about a dozen or so [Interviews] at this point from Aramark employees who have talked about time-card manipulation… One of our workers was fired. There was unfair [sic] labor practice charges that have been filed with the Department of Labor.” 

Tattersall stated there was conjecture that these wrongdoings were due to a reckless human resources director, adding that proper action might have been taken.

“[There is] speculation that it was a bad HR director doing this stuff, and [Aramark] found out about it because the wage theft complaints were filed, and then they fired him. That’s what I’m hoping happened… I think everyone, including Aramark… does not want wage theft.” 

One of the popular demands amongst protestors was a pay raise of $15/hr, a proposition Tattersall also supports, stating that this is a practical “living-wage” in America. 

“This is the amount that it would require someone to make so that they could have a family here, [without having] to rely on government subsidies or private charity to live, which most of us agree on... I estimate about half of [Aramark employees] are non-students… These are people that have families, and they deserve a living wage.”

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When asked about the feasibility of the requested wage, Tattersall felt it to be both feasible and non-partisan.

“We are for [working] families regardless of what their political affiliations are… No one is advocating that everyone makes the same amount of money, or that there is not a difference in the type of work that is compensated differently. What we are saying though is that work needs to happen, and if work needs to happen, it should be compensated for accordingly,” he said. 

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