Round 10: USC v. Local 11

Local 11: Persecuted in PerpetuityRecently, the Hispanic festival Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, was celebrated here on campus. The festival, which is a mix between Catholic and native religions, celebrates the dead by offering the spirits food and drink. Generally, the festival is a good time for the living and a way of respecting one’s ancestors.Who would have thought it could be used as a propaganda piece for securing more money for Local 11?

“Local 11 rallies for two causes,” an article which appeared on November 3 in the Daily Trojan, revealed that over a number of people, including students and union members, held a vigil for the dead and protested the “unfair” labor contracts that the university has with the union.For those who are unaware of the current dealings that USC has with Local 11, the university has kept its house-keeping and food service employees working here on campus, despite the fact that the original contract expired in August. Negotiations are still pending.

Now, I could understand these people are griping about how much they are paid, if they were being truly exploited. However, these people are not underpaid (unless you count $7.00 an hour as being paid unfairly), and are using a religious holiday to promote themselves. Local 11 comprises 300 of the sixteen thousand employees currently on staff here at USC. They are the only ones I have seen in the Daily Trojan complaining about their current salary.

Let’s recap exactly what “legitimate” complaints these people have:

  • They make seven dollars an hour, in additional to numerous benefits.
  • They believe they, and they alone, are entitled to more wages.
  • They think that seven dollars an hour is “slave labor.”

To me, seven dollars an hour is some pretty damn good money, considering what the union members are doing for a living. Despite Maria Durazo’s claim that we are exploiting union members as “slave labor,” most people will find that seven dollars an hour is currently well above Federal minimum wage laws. And yet they ask for more?! This is absurd! I’d be someone’s slave for seven bucks an hour! Many students here remember working at a fast food chain and being lucky to pull down $4.50 an hour, working in the same conditions for less than comparable benefits.

These people don’t know how good they have it. What Local 11 fails to understand is that this university is a private institution. Its primary function, above and beyond providing students with a quality education, is to generate money. Durazo is quoted a s saying that USC wants to “bring in outside companies because it’s cheaper.” Exactly! This university is not a charity service for the employees of Local 11. We provide more employment in this city than any other business; indeed, USC employs more than the City of Los Angeles. The university will logically look to acquire the most employees it can with the lowest possible amount of money. That’s capitalism to you and I. And what of the other 15,700 employees that work here full-time? Don’t they deserve a raise also? Why aren’t they saying anything?

Durazo claims that “evil spirits” have come home to roost in the upper management of USC. USC has absolutely no obligation to continue hiring Local 11 union members, yet they continue to do so because the two have had such experience with one another. It seems to me that Local 11 should realize this and make some concessions with the university to keep its employees employed. USC can drop the union at any time and hire less expensive, equally adept workers. Why does Local 11 think it holds the upper hand?

Likewise, is it justifiable to manipulate a celebration rich in historical context as well as folklore just to complain about working conditions? People rarely picket in front of the Santa Claus display in Sears during Christmas season because the holiday bonus was overlooked. Durazo states that “we just wanted to bring people together, but also to bring people together to continue the struggle to keep our jobs.” With this statement, it becomes obvious that the celebrations surrounding Dia De Los Muertos were simply a catalyst for these people to rally. But what struggle? Local 11 can keep its jobs by halting its incessant demands for more money.

The union continues its attacks on the school because it must. A union has no power if it is not constantly waging war against the employers for better benefits and salaries. However, this is one of those times when it is best to leave things the way they are. Local 11 holds five unmatched cards while USC holds a royal flush. Advantage: USC.