from The Badger Herald,Friday, October 14, 2005

SLAC proposal passes

by John Potratz

A Student Labor Action Coalition referendum prohibiting the Student Services Finance Committee from allocating auxiliary funding to various services on campus, including the Memorial Union, passed by an overwhelming margin in the Associated Students of Madisons fall elections Thursday.

The referendum, drafted by members of SLAC to counteract the hiring of limited-term employees (LTEs) to fill formerly unionized positions, prevents the finance committee from hearing budget proposals from the Memorial Union and Union South, University Health Services and UW Recreational Sports including the Natatorium, the Southeast Recreational Facility and the Shell unless they pay all their workers a livable wage of slightly more than $10 per hour.

The general [student] body overwhelmingly chose that workers in the union should not be living in poverty wages, SLAC member Ashok Kumar said. [By passing the referendum], were saying we hold power over our money and we dont think it should go to institutions on campus that pay their employees below-poverty wages.

The referendum was passed 1,379 votes to 612.

Because SLAC members felt the universitys policy of hiring LTEs who get paid minimum wages with little to no benefits was unfair, they introduced the referendum on the ASM ballot to require the various services referenced within it to pay all employees the greater wage.

If the services fail to pay all of their employees that wage, from now on, SSFC will be unable to hear their proposals to receive auxiliary segregated-fee funding accounting for a portion of the services total budgets.

Yet, for the specific services included in the referendum, SSFC only has the power to make budget recommendations which are later considered by University of Wisconsin Chancellor John Wiley before he ultimately makes the final decision. Now students anticipate whether or not the administration will adhere to the policy. If not, administrators could completely bypass SSFC from the process.

I definitely have to say this is a bad thing, ASM Chair Eric Varney said. I think it will further complicate the financial process.

Varney added that from talking to various administrators on campus, he believes SSFC will be excluded from the auxiliary-budget process and, aside from that, no substantial change will be enacted.

Im not exactly sure how this is going to work out, he said. All I know is this will take SSFC input out of the equation.

Subsequently, Varney said the referendum will also take student input out of the equation.

I definitely think this is a defeat for student governance, he said.

Yet ASM Diversity Chair Ryan Sarafolean said the referendum takes a positive stance, preventing the university from taking advantage of LTEs.

This is making a stand, he said. With this referendum passing, we are stepping in the right direction.

Sarafolean added that by passing the referendum, students have shown they support the universitys workers.

I think this is a fabulous referendum, he said.

Not knowing exactly how the SSFC will be affected in the wake of the referendum, the committees chair, Rachelle Stone, said she will have to wait until the situation plays out before forming an opinion.

I definitely think its going to create dialogue on this campus, she said. Im just waiting and seeing how … this will affect SSFC as a whole.

Also during the elections, Tim Vlietstra, Sol Grosskopf and Brian Rusk were elected to ASM, and Kellie Sanders and David Lapidus were elected to SSFC.

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