Barnard Workers Reach Out To Student Body

by Ellen Granoff

Maida Rosenstein, President of Local Union 2110

Last week, an estimated 7,000 brightly colored flyers were distributed in front of the main gates of Barnard by union workers looking to raise awareness about issues pertaining to the renewal of their contract. Interested in finding out more, I contacted Maida Rosenstein, the President of the Union (Local 2110) to get more information about the renegotiation of the union’s contract and how the proposed changes could affect members of the community. It ends up that there is much more to the story than would fit onto those 8.5”x11” flyers.

According to Rosenstein, more than 140 members of the union whose salary benefits could be affected are people who work on campus as dormitory access attendants, clerical staff, registrar employees, and various other posts that are crucial to the smooth operation of the college. The main issue that the union and administration are grappling with pertains to the changes proposed during renegotiations this Fall. Rosenstein recounted trying to start contract negotiations before graduation to no avail, and recalled that, “once graduation had happened and students and faculty left the campus, the College came in and made demands for cutbacks to all kinds of benefits.”

To name a few, such cutbacks include, “reductions in health benefits, pension benefits and tuition benefits.” Rosenstein noted that proposed changes include wage freezes for the first year of employment, and only minimal raises for the second and third years, among other things. Rosenstein mentioned her additional surprise at the proposal of “takeaways that were uncharacteristic for a women’s college, including cuts to maternity leave, flex time and other things that are family-friendly.” These types of proposed changes were not well received by union members of all levels of tenure. Rosenstein went on to explain, “we have a lot of long term members who have dedicated years to Barnard. They love the college because of the students and the faculty, but if you combine these low salaries with these benefit cuts, people can’t survive.”

A flyer put up in a Plimpton elevator

So what’s with all the flyers? Rosenstein explained, “The main thing that we wanted to do was get the word out to students, since the students don’t seem to know what is going on with the office workers… There isn’t always a lot of interaction between the people who work on this campus and the students who go here.” The distribution of flyers to raise awareness about issues and advertise good deals on local food is common all along Broadway, but receiving flyers from the people who swipe us into our dorms and work the desks at the registrar office was truly an anomaly for most students. Most administrative issues such as this are not highly publicized to the students, especially in the form of street hand-outs. Of the unusual nature of this approach, Rosenstein added that students have not been involved with the union very much over, “the past 16 years, several contracts have been negotiated without significant conflict.”

Is this an issue that is strictly between the administration and the union? Rosenstein’s commentary suggests that perhaps it is not. She concluded that, “Barnard should be a fair workplace because if it’s not… it is contradictory to the mission of the college.” Renegotiation for the contract will resume at the end of this month and, until then, students looking to get involved can go online to read more about the specifics of the contract and sign the online petition letter to President Spar.

Ellen Granoff is a first-year and a staff writer for The Nine Ways of Knowing.

Image of Maida Rosenstein courtesy of Donna Becotte and UAW 2110.

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