The Connecticut Employees Union Independent (CEUI), an organization representing Connecticut’s blue collar and service workers, planned to host a rally earlier this month at the University of Connecticut’s Storrs campus to bring attention to UConn’s custodial workers.
The “anti-privatization” rally, which was meant to take place on Friday, Sept. 9, was canceled earlier that day after union members received a letter from UConn regarding their workers.
“Since the announcement of the rally, CEUI has been meeting with University officials to resolve the differences between the parties as it relates to custodial services,” CEUI’s political director Alisha Blake said in an email that Friday. “CEUI leadership has agreed to the cancellation of the planned rally after receipt of a written agreement between [Employee Relations’ executive director] Karen Buffkin at UConn.”
CEUI claims the university violated a contract by moving workers from one department on campus to another, replacing the former department with private contractors.
“When we scheduled the rally, the CEUI membership was frustrated with management and in fear of losing their jobs due to the choice to move employees and use contractors in their former work location,” CEUI president Carl Chisem said in an email.
According to Chisem, CEUI members addressed their concerns to the administration regarding the employment change, asking to be notified in advance of any future changes and to have the workforce consist of state employees rather than outside contractors.
“We demanded better future communication and pushed to stop any additional outside contractors with the emphasis on maintaining a state-employed workforce,” Chisem said.
CEUI had been meeting with the university’s administration in the days preceding the rally. They decided to cancel the rally after the university issued them a letter clarifying there was no intention to eliminate custodial services or lay off workers.
The letter also mentioned the university and CEUI are working to schedule a joint Town Hall meeting to discuss the changes to the custodial unit and any additional concerns. The date of the future meeting has not been decided on yet.
“The University remains committed to work collaboratively with CEUI to eliminate further need for outsourcing moving forward,” the letter reads. “To that end, the University will be scheduling a Town Hall meeting with the custodial unit and NP-2 leadership in the coming days.”
Chisem said the university and CEUI will “work towards building back that trust between the worker and the administration” at the meeting.
“Our hope is that the Town Hall will begin to develop more transparent communication between the administration and our union members,” Chisem added. “Union members at UConn still feel very anxious, and it is the responsibility of the administration to reassure and answer their questions.”
CEUI expressed gratitude to members of the UConn community who supported and planned to attend the rally.
“We want to thank all those who helped us get to this point and…put the important work our members do to the forefront of the University and the surrounding community,” Blake said in an email.