from The Badger Herald, Thursday September 19, 2002

LTEs demand more from Union

By Kate Radway, News Writer

Shouts of "LTEs are getting robbed, they deserve union jobs," sounded throughout a crowd of about 50 people, who marched in protest of the treatment of limited-term employees (LTEs) in front of Memorial Union Wednesday afternoon.

LTEs, workers employed by the University of Wisconsin in over 1,500 positions on campus, are hired under strict guidelines specifying how many hours they can work in a given year. When the LTEs have reached their specified maximum number of hours, the university typically rehires the LTEs under the previous guidelines.

By not hiring these employees as full-time workers, the university is able to escape providing them with benefits such as life and health insurance, sick pay, vacation time and retirement funds.

Annie Habel, a steward with Local 171, the labor union that sponsored the rally, said workers are unable to express discontent.

"[Workers] are frightened, and they have a right to be; the minute they stick their heads up [in protest], they will be fired." Habel said.

LTEs are also paid what Local 171 calls a poverty wage. Nearly 500 LTEs working for the university make less than $7.15 per hour. An employee who declined to give his name said he made approximately $10 per hour plus benefits, but that an LTE doing the same job would make $7 to $7.25 and receive no benefits.

The rally at Memorial Union was supposed to place pressure on the university to stop using LTEs. "We're holding the rally at Memorial Union because they employ over 52 percent of the LTEs," Mark Thomas, president of Local 171, said. "The Memorial Union will be 75 years old this year; it's not a temporary building. Why are so many of the workers temps?"

The rally brought out several different groups seeking to further the cause. About a dozen students from groups such as the Student Labor Action Coalition (SLAC) and the Internationalist Socialist Organization came out to support the LTEs.

As chants of "We'll be back" rang throughout the crowd, Wednesday's rally began to wind down.

Bert Zipperer, who is mounting a campaign for mayor, was also in attendance.

"Working people deserve a working wage; it's a basic argument of human rights," he said. "You can say you don't have the money to pay them, but when it comes down to it, everyone deserves a living wage."

Zipperer said the battle was an uphill one but believes he is doing the right thing.

"If you do nothing, you know you lose. If you do something, you know you have a chance," he said.

Mark Kennedy, a marketing publicist at Memorial Union, said the Union has dealt fairly with LTEs.

"We work with the Union organization to make sure LTEs are treated well," he said.

Kennedy said the Union has recently converted several LTE positions to permanent jobs.

"We're dedicated to treating LTEs fairly," he said.

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