by Dave Kreisman | July 25, 2014
SUPERIOR, Wis. – When the custodians and grounds crew at the University of Wisconsin-Superior received “at risk notices” alerting them their jobs would be outsourced to a private company, AFSCME Local 42 (Council 24) and the greater Superior community decided to fight back.
AFSCME members mobilized immediately to spread the word throughout the tightknit Superior community. They also partnered with their sisters and brothers from the American Federation of Teachers, the United Steelworkers, and the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO. Within a couple weeks, an online petition to UWS officials generated nearly 3,000 signatures.
Tom Van Overmeiren, a custodian with 26 years on the job at UW-Superior, is encouraged by the level of community support they’ve received, but concerned about the precedent being set.
“After 26 years working at UW-Superior, I’m really upset the administration would treat people like me, making under $15 per hour, this way,” he said. “Outsourcing the custodians and grounds crew at UW-Superior will cause unnecessary harm not just to the university, but also to our community. They tell us we can be hired back, but without any benefits. Many of us have worked our entire careers to keep the university running, and I don’t think any of us expected to be treated this way.”
Van Overmeiren added that, “Since the news broke, we’ve received an incredible amount of support from our community. People from all over the area are rallying around our cause because they understand how outsourcing jobs like ours can hurt an entire community.”
In yet another important signal of support, during the first week of July, the Superior City Council passed an advisory resolution encouraging the university to find ways to balance the university’s budget without terminating the hardworking custodians and grounds crew at UWS.