‘Flexibility’ Hits University of Wisconsin Custodians

Source: Jason Lee, Labor Notes, August 14, 2014

Glenn Khalar is ex-military, a vet. He’s worked at the University of Wisconsin-Superior for 16 years. He was raised in the area, and brought up his own family there. He loves Superior, and partially credits the university’s program to retrain and hire veterans for getting him his job. But despite his passion, dedication, and modest wage, his job could soon be gone. In May, the campus announced plans to cut half its graduate programs, and sent “at-risk” notices to all 26 custodians and grounds workers—meaning they could be laid off at any time, and their jobs outsourced. The bookstore was outsourced on July 1. Why? It’s the familiar refrain, budget cuts—and jobs like Khalar’s are the first ones to go. In their quest for financial stability in dire times, campus administrators seem to think eliminating his $12 an hour will make all the difference. … But what happens to custodians here isn’t isolated. It’s part of a trend to apply a market-based, private model to public higher education. And the danger is spreading south. The threatened custodians and grounds workers are members of AFSCME. They have held protests and begun an online petition against the layoffs. The AFT local representing faculty and staff is supporting them. …