Kent State Taking Cues from Wal-Mart on Pay

Kent State Picket

AFSCME Local 153 bargaining committee members, George Lemons, left, and Ray Davis on the picket line standing up for improved wages and working conditions.

Move over Wal­-Mart, McDonald’s and Yum-Brands (Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, KFC), some Kent State University employees’ paychecks are so small they qualify for public assistance.

AFSCME Local 153 held an information picket line to highlight difficult contract negotiations.  The demonstrators were joined by 80 students and labor activists in support of the 375 union members who maintain the 824 acre campus which serves more than 22,000 students.

“About a third of these members are food service and housekeeping workers. They make more than the minimum wage, but at the end of the day, many can’t keep up,” said Woodall, who is leading the union’s negotiating committee.

Low pay is the reason for that, Woodall said. The starting wage for some jobs pays below $24,000 per year, which is below the poverty line for a family of four.

Income inequality is fast becoming the “new normal” for all service workers ­ in both the private and public sector.

This has not escaped the attention of Ohio’s U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown, who showed his support for fair pay and good jobs by stopping by the AFSCME picket line.

On her way to her formal inauguration before an audience of more than 700, Kent State University’s 12th President Beverly Warren avoided the union’s picket line.

Invited speakers at the event included Ohio House Representative Kathleen Clyde(D-­Kent), and syndicated columnist Connie Schultz (who is also the wife of U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-­Ohio).

As Kent State graduates and strong union supporters, they asked AFSCME officials for permission to cross the picket line before attending the inauguration. Both mentioned AFSCME in their remarks.

Contract negotiations with the university are now in fact-­finding, and the union is hopeful a fair resolution can be reached.

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