Protesters supporting facility workers gathered outside of President Mark R. Nemec’s residence on Round Hill Rd. on the morning of Friday, Dec. 1. Members of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 30 (IUOE Local 30) urged President Nemec to support the workers on campus amid stalled union negotiations.  

Currently, IUOE Local 30 represents facility workers and is in the ninth month of negotiations with Fairfield University for a new bargaining agreement that guarantees safer working conditions, livable wages and healthcare benefits. 

Director of Special Projects at IUOE Local 30, Andres Puertas detailed the motivation behind the demonstration being that Fairfield University “handed [negotiations] off to an anti-union law firm.” 

“The anti-union law firm should not be speaking for the administration and we wanted to urge the President to get involved,” Puertas stated. 

IUOE Local 30 claims that Bond, Schoeneck and King, the firm managing the labor negotiations on behalf of the university, is a “legendary union-busting firm out of New York.” Puertas believes that the university’s use of a law firm demonstrates Fairfield lacks the desire to achieve a fair contract for facilities workers. 

Alongside The Mirror, which published on the negotiations on Oct. 4, Fairfield University’s Faculty Welfare Committee and its chapter of the American Association for University Professors (FWC/AAUP), wrote an article regarding the negotiations. 

In the FWC/AAUP fall 2023 issue, Professor of Sociology and Anthropology Dave Crawford reflected on an Oct. 4 report published by The Mirror highlighting the Facilities workers’ demands and pointed to how the organization is charged with “representing faculty welfare.” 

Crawford first referenced the “Guidelines of Contracting Services,” created in 1999 which include notions of “just compensation” and “a minimum level [of income] that the University deems just.” 

He then compares the different uses of language in the statements from 1999 to the ones the university administrations made this year. “The University now says that it is committed to paying ‘competitively relative to the market.’”

He also points out a driving factor in the negotiations, “On the tragic death of a subcontractor, a sore point in today’s union negotiations, Fairfield states coldly that ‘The University was not cited by OSHA for any safety violations related to the subcontractor’s tragic death. Only the subcontractor’s own company was cited for such violations.’” 

Puertas echoes Crawford’s sentiments as he believes that given the death of a subcontractor on campus on May 31, 2022, the administration has an ethical duty to “consider the substandard working conditions for these members of the Fairfield University community and workers on campus.”

Due to the University’s changing statements, Crawford believes that “we now have a ‘Standard Fairfield University Vendor Contract’ written in potent legalese intended precisely to avoid any notion of responsibility. The point seems to be that dignity and safety can be subcontracted. Our current verbiage has nothing to do with justice or dignity and everything to do with expediency.” 

In light of Crawford’s statements, Puertas’ concern over safety is evermore pertinent and he asks, “Is the University doing everything possible to uplift these workers and protect them?”

The Mirror reached out to Fairfield University’s Marketing Department for a comment, but they did not reply in time for publication. 

In addition to support from faculty, IUOE Local 30 felt a lot of support from the public during the protest as “students passing by applauded [their] efforts that day.” Because awareness has already been raised regarding the negotiations, “This was not a demonstration intended to simply raise awareness; it was a demonstration to urge President Nemec to support the workers on campus as we would expect a University President to do,” Puertas voices. 

It is unknown whether President Mark Nemec was at his home at the time of the demonstration.

“President Nemec has the power to settle a contract for these workers,” and the Union believes it is time Nemec does that.

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