On January 28, 1999, the Manhattan College Attorney Shelly Sanders Kehl sent a letter stating Manhattan College's position in the struggle.
In this letter, Manhattan College renounced all involvement in the struggle, claiming that Manhattan College had no influence with Sodexho Marriot, the company who subcontracts the employees to clean Manhattan College. Click here to read the full text of this letter.
Most people think it is a tragedy that 43 million people in America have no health insurance in the richest society on earth. Twenty-seven people on the Manhattan College Campus work without health insurance benefits. Our entire nation believes it is a right that Martin Luther King's birthday be a paid holiday, but January 18 is not a holiday for 27 people at Manhattan College.
ALL OF THIS IS WRONG!
We are the 27 union staff in the Housekeeping department. We earn an average of $7.50 an hour. We support households with 28 children. Our job gives us the "opportunity" to have family health coverage. None of us can afford the $353 a month it costs to get HMO coverage through our employer Sodexho Marriott Services. That translates to over 20% of gross pay or $1.53 an hour. As a result of these outrageous rates, only four workers pay for insuranc3e. Individual coverage is all anyone could possibly pay for, while eighteen families are forced to gamble with the health of twenty-two children.
Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday is recognized as a national holiday. It is a paid holiday for everyone at Manhattan College except for us. This should not be an issue in New York City in 1999. Unfortunately, it is. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated while helping garbage collectors fight to get a Union Contract. The contract negotiations now stalled on campus are about two main ideas: to achieve health care benefits and the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday.
Benefits that are "available" to everyone at a price nobody can afford is like having no benefits at all. Having the choice of paying for rent, food or health insurance is not a choice. We feel it is our moral obligation to insist we be treated fairly. We are simply seeking the same conditions other workers on the Manhattan campus receive. We are saying to our employer that we will no longer be treated like invisible second class citizens.
Our numbers are few, and our struggle has gone largely unnoticed. Our story is very fundamental to the labor movement. It should come as no surprise that working people would protest gambling with their children's health.
This is not a huge cost undertaking for the college, and can be achieved by raising tuition a mere $1.80 per month. Help hard working people help themselves and their families.
End second class citizenship!
Provide Health Insurance and the paid
Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday.