Talks Resume in University of Rochester Labor Dispute
To view our videos, you need to
install Adobe Flash 9 or above. Install now.
Then come back here and refresh the page.
Union workers and officials at the University of Rochester resumed contract talks Monday. Union leaders say they will not rule out a strike if their contract dispute is not resolved soon.
"A lot of people have been here a long time. They have a good workforce here," says Sharon Hale of 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers.
The jobs at Rochester's biggest employer are not all high paying jobs.
"We have a lot of members that have to work a second part time job just to make ends meet," says Hale.
All the more reason why Sharon Hale and 1,800 other union workers at the University of Rochester are fighting to keep what they have.
"Seems like they're trying to strip and take away everything," says Hale.
A month of negotiating between the union and the school has brought some common ground.
"For now it's like at a standstill," says Wendell Broadhurst of 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers.
Officials say there is common ground, but not on key issues like disability, pay and most importantly health care benefits, which the union says the University is chipping away at.
"If we lost our health benefits, it would be a big burden on all of our workers. We're pretty much at almost poverty levels wages now," says Hale.
"It's not easy for us. We're low on the totem pole. And we're just trying to maintain what we have," says Broadhurst.
Talks between the two sides resumed Monday, with the union offering up a counter-proposal to the University's last offer. Union membership is scheduled to meet Tuesday to receive an update on contract talks. A picket is planned for Friday. Union leadership will not rule out the possibility of a strike.
"It's an option, but I'm hoping it don't get to that point," says Hale.
The University of Rochester emailed a statement on the talks, saying, the school "is committed to offering a compensation package to employees that's highly competitive, as well as fair and equitable with non-union staff." The school says it's proposal would offer more choice of health care plans to employees...and finally, that it's willing to sit down again at the bargaining table.
"It's like a slap in the face to us, what they're trying to do," says Hale.
In the meantime, union membership appears united.
"The 99 percent is the 99 percent that gets the crap taxed out of them," says Broadhurst.
Union members are hopeful, that drastic measures, on either side, can be avoided.
"It's basically taking away what we had for years and my motto is take care of the people that take care of you," says Broadhurst.