Strike wave hits US universities

Janitors at the University of Miami have been on hunger strike for more than two weeks, and were joined by seven students from the university last Monday.

Submitted by libcom on April 19, 2006

The hunger strike is over anti-union practices by their employer UNICCO, the University's cleaning contractor.

Meanwhile students at the University of Colorado are entering the sixth day of a hunger strike over wages and collective bargaining for the workers who make their university's clothing range. And graduate assistants at New York University have been on strike since November 2005 for a new union contract, losing two terms' stipend.

Tanya Aquino, a student at Miami University was hospitalised today having been on hunger strike for a week. She issued the following statement on 10th April:

Why are the students hunger striking?

Dear Faculty, Friends, and Supporters,

Recent events have once again raised student escalation efforts. This decision to hunger strike in solidarity with the workers was well thought out and planned as a group decision. Hunger strikes have been used as a civil disobedience tactic since Ancient Roman times. The idea for a hunger strike being carried out by UM students is nothing new. Our research and discussions have brought up hunger strikes for months now, and this is the perfect time for its use.

The negotiation meetings have produced only promises and processes that take time; a precious commodity as the semester's end quickly approaches. Meetings and committees are used commonly by administrations nationally through social justice campaigns as stalling tactics. UNICCO's website ( even reported that they would simply stall for four weeks until the students left for summer break and forget all about the workers. UNICCO and their stepchild (the administration) are gravely mistaken. Workers shall not be silenced; students shall not be stalled. We won't sit by and wait for UNICCO and SEIU to find a fair process free of intimidation, threats, and harassment. Such illegal anti-union tactics are continuing today. Workers have waited for "the process." They have waited five years; meetings have never brought results, and hoping has only led to desperation. It is solely the direct action and civil disobedience of workers and students along with amazing community support that has created change.

We are well taken care of in Freedom City and have access to our own network of support staff that is laboriously toiling to ensure our safety and comfort during this action. A registered nurse visits the tent city daily to take vitals and ensure our safety. We the students understand the risk associated with a hunger strike and are taking all necessary precautions to avoid health problems that could arise. We are taking this measure because we must. We need your enduring support that you have showed us in the past more than ever. It has been a comfort through this struggle.

Your support can be shown in visits to Freedom City with classes, encouraging events and meetings to occur here, bottled water, and continuing education surrounding the issue. Other events will be communicated to you as they are made.

I will leave you with a quote in which students have found inspiration:"If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time; but if you've come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together." - Lila Watson

Tanya Aquino