Gainesville City Commissioner Harvey Ward speaks to the group of protesters Sunday afternoon. (Matthew Harrell/WUFT News)
Home / The Rundown / Protesters Rally For Fair Wages For UF’s OPS Workers

Protesters Rally For Fair Wages For UF’s OPS Workers

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Protesters gathered Sunday at University of Florida’s Levin College of Law, across the street from President Fuchs’ mansion, to demonstrate for better wages, benefits and tuition for UF’s temporary employees.

Jeremiah Tattersall, lead organizer for the Alachua County Labor Coalition’s Living Wage campaign, said there are thousands of OPS workers that live and work in the greater UF community who are being mistreated.”

“They don’t have anything, benefit-wise, they don’t have any sick leave,” Tattersall said. “They also don’t have anything paid into social security.”

Tattersall said a woman called the ACLC who had been an OPS worker for 17 years and had not had anything paid into social security the entire time.

“A lot of people assume that, if you work, your employer will pay into social security,” Tattersall said. “Not the case for OPS workers.”

In April, the UF Faculty Senate voted on a resolution that recommended that UF  “create a mechanism to move long-term OPS employees to full-time TEAMS or other classification with benefits when employed in a position for longer than one year.”

Tattersall said if the University of Florida wants to maintain its preeminent status, it’s going to need permanent employees.

“Permanent preeminence demands permanent employees.”

Gainesville City Commissioner Harvey Ward urged the university to follow the city and county’s example on living wages.

“The city of Gainesville and Alachua County put all of our employees, part-time, full-time, everybody, on a minimum wage floor that is leading up to $15 an hour,” he said. “We understand that it’s complicated and it’s difficult to get on that path, but we did it and we think UF can do it, too.”

As the largest employer in the state, Ward said UF is in prime position to address income inequality by boosting wages for its least-compensated employees.

Paul Ortiz, the director of the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program, stressed the value of UF’s temporary workers. He said the program had just finished a project in Mississippi, and without OPS workers, the project would not have been possible.

“We’re supposed to be one of the better universities in nation,” Ortiz said. “If that’s the case, shouldn’t we pay our employees to reflect that?”

James Thompson, vice chair of the Alachua County Democratic Party, urged protesters to vote in this August’s elections.

“This is our university,” Thompson told the group of protesters. “Every afternoon, an OPS worker listens to their boss talk about their health benefits, and they’re sitting there thinking ‘Am I going to have a job next week?’”

About Matthew Harrell

Matthew is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

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  • F.D. Stephenson, LCSW, BCD

    — There’s no economic justification for UF’s anemic OPS benefits and compensation policies. These economic decisions benefit the institution at the expense of hapless workers. This should no longer be tolerated in a public, tax-supported institution of higher learning.

    Many say the minimum wage should go up to $15. In the 1950s and the 1960s, the minimum wage tracked productivity and GDP. If it had continued after the mid-1970s, it would be about $20 an hour in 2018. That’s money that poor working people like OPS workers are handing over to the wealthy.

    How long will it be tolerated? Only as long as people don’t want to rise up and overthrow it. Cheers, thanks and kudos to Gainesville City Commissioner Harvey Ward, the Alachua County Labor Coalition and the Free College Now Tour for taking strong leadership in calling for fair and equitable solutions.