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29369: Hermantin(News) Little Haiti community fights to secure Nova janitors' jobs (fwd)

From: leonie hermantin <lhermantin@hotmail.com>

Posted on Sun, Oct. 22, 2006

Little Haiti community fights to secure Nova janitors' jobs
A Little Haiti rally of more than 100 people was held to support unionized Nova Southeastern janitors whose jobs may be at stake.

About 150 people came out to a church in Little Haiti Saturday night to support newly unionized janitors at Nova Southeastern University, who they worry may lose their jobs.

Singing songs and chanting the union refrain ''Yes, we can'' in English, Creole and Spanish, the crowd at Haitian Emmanuel Baptist Church heard speeches from NSU workers, union members and a few community leaders in support of their cause.

''We're asking the community to support the union and these workers,'' said Pastor Clervy Merilus, who asked the audience to be prepared to pitch in with food drives to support the janitors if they lost their jobs. Many of the janitors are Haitian.

A majority of the 350 employees who clean and maintain the Davie campus voted in favor of the Service Employees International Union earlier this month, but the victory for the union came days after an announcement from the university that it planned to rebid its contract with Boston-based Unicco.

NSU spokesman Dave Dawson repeated the university's position Saturday that it was reevaluating its relationship with contractor Unicco. He said there were several possible outcomes: Unicco could retain the contract; another contractor could be hired; the university could bring some positions in-house; or it could do a combination of all three.

''I think that someone who works hard every day and adds value to the university certainly will have the opportunity under any scenario to apply for the job,'' Dawson said.

Nevertheless, Unicco recently filed notice with the state, as required by law, that there was a possibility the workers could be laid off.

And many of the speakers Saturday, which included a dozen workers, community leaders and a few politicians, told the crowd they were watching to ensure that the workers would be allowed to keep their jobs.

They urged people to send postcards to NSU President Ray Ferrero asking him not to ''jeopardize the stability'' of the workers' jobs.

Others passed out fliers asking people to join the union in a protest before Tuesday night's gubernatorial debate, which is to be held at NSU.

Haitian-American community activist Marleine Bastien, who hosted the event, said she wanted to send a message to NSU that the community was watching.

''We hope the president will come to his senses and will respect the basic rights of these workers,'' she said. ``We'll be side by side with these workers, until their victory.''

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