With the economy in a downward spiral and potential budget cuts in sight for Miami University, Students for Staff (SFS) is re-evaluating its agenda to assess these changes.
Junior Susan Dirr, co-organizer for SFS, said that while SFS has been less visible this semester compared to past years, members have been hard at work making changes to the organization’s message.
“With the financial crisis, it is more urgent now that we prevent people on the bottom of the wage scale from getting hurt,” Dirr said. “We need to protect them.”
This semester, due to economic setbacks, Dirr said SFS has had to establish a new strategy for achieving the group’s mission, which includes working toward a living wage for all Miami employees.
“When the university is cutting funds and salaries, it gets a lot harder to convince people that a living wage is needed,” Dirr said.
With the new strategizing comes new ideas that Miami and Oxford have never seen from SFS before.
According to Dirr, a coalition has been in the works since last year, bringing together groups around Oxford and surrounding areas. The Oxford Family Resource Center, Students for Peace and Jobs with Justice are coming together with SFS and working toward a unified goal of helping Miami staff gain a more sufficient income.
Senior Robert Winslow, co-organizer for SFS, said by expanding into the wider community, SFS could build a foundation that future SFS members can work off of for years to come.
“There was so much energy put into the presidential election, that SFS wants to mobilize that energy and turn it in the direction of local issues,” Winslow said.
According to Dirr, SFS has been working with the local 209 union of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees for better wages, new policies and more benefits for workers. Dirr said working with the union helps increase recruitment, both for SFS and the union.
“When they know of students who are interested in SFS, they tell us and we do the same for them,” Dirr said.
According to Winslow, SFS wants to reinforce that they are working alongside staff, not for them.
Miami’s senior director of human resources, Carol Hauser, said the university reviews SFS’s ideas, but all final wage negotiations are between employees and the university.
“SFS is concerned for the families that work at Miami as well as for families of students,” Hauser said.
SFS will also be promoting student education by giving presentations to classes about SFS and encouraging them to get involved.
“A lot of students have no exposure to labor movements and have never thought about economic justice,” Dirr said.
With all of these improvements in the approach by SFS, Dirr said they hope when Miami President David Hodge starts asking for the university to make budget sacrifices, that the staff does not shoulder an unfair burden of those cuts.
Winslow agreed and added that before sacrificing university employees, Miami needs to first look at the superficial things.
“In light of the budget crisis we must cut luxuries before necessities,” Winslow said.
According to Dirr, SFS could potentially create the best atmosphere the union has seen for 20 years by bringing all the administrators of the university to the table to help prevent future economic turmoil. Dirr said staff is closest to how the university’s money is spent, with housing and dining hall services and campus grounds upkeep, and that their input on spending decisions is important and should be respected.
“If staff has adequate wages they will work better and more efficiently, which in the long run will make the university more money,” Dirr said.
While there was a 30 cent raise from $9 to $9.30 per hour in the summer, Dirr said that pay level is by no means a living wage.
The Living Wage Bill passed in April through university senate, encourages Hodge to consider a living wage for staff while not recommending specific salaries, Dirr said.