It ain't just Wal Mart
This cat gets better health care than a
janitor at the University of Miami
While Shalala Lives in Luxury, Janitors Struggle
BY ANA MENENDEZ
Miami Herald, March 1, 2006
Zoila Garcia has the toughest job at the University of Miami.
From 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., five nights a week, she washes windows, cleans desks and picks up the potato chip bags and used condoms that students leave behind in the library.
''Ay mamita! And when they decide to draw on those tables, it's scrub scrub scrub,'' Garcia said.
When she returns to her mobile home off Southwest Eighth Street just after dawn, she takes the pills she gets through a Jackson clinic. Some are for high blood pressure. One is for the pain in her arms.
For now, there's nothing to be done about a blood clot that formed on her calf and blackened the leg from knee to ankle. She needs an operation. But when the doctor told her it would cost $4,000, she laughed. ``Where do you get that kind of money?''
Garcia, who makes $6.70 an hour, has no health insurance.
Sunday, janitors voted to strike for better pay and insurance from the company that hires them to clean at UM. They began walking out overnight.
''I have worked hard all my life, but the situation in this country has changed,'' Zoila said. ``The cost of living is so high and no one can live with these salaries. These millionaires just don't understand the struggles of working people.''
Zoila, 51, arrived from Cuba in 1983. She has never stopped working, first picking peppers, then cleaning hotel rooms. She shares her 24- by 57-foot trailer with her dog Tribilin and her son. She helps a grown daughter with bills. But $6.70 an hour makes for a thin security blanket, and she now faces bankruptcy.
Shalala, who as UM president makes more than $500,000 a year, has the power to make Zoila's life and the lives of 400 other janitors better. Shalala declined to comment beyond an earlier statement noting the formation of a group to look into compensation for contract workers.
What an irony that this is even an issue for Shalala, the former Clinton cabinet secretary who told the Times that what she's reading now is ``about healthcare, because I am teaching a class in it.''
Ms. Shalala: No one is going to begrudge you your 29-foot motorboat or Sweetie's four beds. But for God's sake, get these people health insurance and a dignified wage. The bare minimum, that's all they're asking.
posted by Steve @ 12:23:00 PM