Support SEIU Local 615 in Providence, RI

On October 11th, with a contract expiring at midnight on the 12th, SEIU local 615, which represents the food service workers at Brown University, held a solidarity march and rally in conjunction with the Brown Student Labor Alliance.  

A good-sized group of workers and students assembled outside of Alumni Hall, and soon after were mobilized to march down Thayer St., a busy retail street adjacent to the Brown campus. The hundreds of marching workers and students were impossible to miss. The march met up with another group of workers just getting off their shift, then turned down George St., a street flanked by rows of old brick and stone buildings.  Here, the already strong chants of "1, 2, 3, 4 no one should be working poor!" and "what do we want? Health care!" got even louder from the reverberations.  

The chants reflected the main demands of the union: to extend health care benefits to all the workers, as some 350 workers are with out health care; and to ensure a living wage as many of the workers are classified as "temporary", although often working full time, with many making only $7.00 an hour. Some of these workers are single parents who struggle to cover the ever-increasing rent costs in this city. 

The march then turned onto the main campus green, and headed to the building where the President's office is located. Here the union had a small P.A. system set up, from which the workers explained their needs for better wages and health care. 

Luis, who works 70 hours a week between Brown and a second job, spoke about not having the time to see his children, and was brought to tears while telling the rally about this. Another worker, Rick, explained how as a child his own father had to work long hours to earn enough to keep his family supported, and now he himself is in the same situation, working two jobs, hoping one day his young child may go to college. A student worker named Madeline, who works side by side with the union workers spoke about her close bond with the workers, and announced that one hundred other student workers have, in writing, shown their support for the union workers. Additionally, a number of the workers' children wrote letters and drew pictures expressing their need to have more time to spend with their parents. 

At this point a group of students went into the president's office to deliver these messages from the children. While this happened, anyone else that was interested in speaking was invited to speak.  After some moments of no one coming forward, the author of this report decided to break the ice and used the Bill Haywood illustration of a union being like a fist, each finger alone is weak, but as fist there is strength in unity, as well speaking personally as a worker with a low wage job and without health care. 

This struggle of Local 615 deserves the support of all workers. Around the country, health care is the number one reason for union disputes with the employers. Even in Ivy League universities like Brown, and not to long ago Yale, which have more than enough funds available to pay both decent wages and quality health care costs, the squeeze is being put on working people as HMOs and pharmaceutical companies drive up costs and reap ever-greater profits. This is a struggle that affects all working people.  We call upon workers in other unions to support this struggle and for non-unionized workers to lend their support, as union victories help keep wages and benefits strong for workers across the board. Ultimately, however, it is in the interests of all workers to unionize, to to fight for health care and a living wage for all workers, to be able to express real unity where otherwise there are just isolated frustrations and hardships.

The Workers International League fully supports the workers of SEIU Local 615 in their struggle to improve their conditions of life. 

Health Care and a Living Wage for all Local 615 members now!
Organize the unorganized!


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