United Automobile Workers

Jun 17 2024

UAW Members at Cornell University Speak Out Ahead of Contract Expiration

UAW Local 2300 members who work at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, are speaking out about unsustainable working conditions and declining living standards despite the institution's nearly $10 billion endowment. The union and Cornell kicked off contract bargaining on June 4 and the current agreement expires on June 30.

In a new video released by the UAW, “We are the Heart, Soul, and Backbone of Cornell,” workers share their struggles to make ends meet as their wages have stagnated and the cost of living continues to rise. Over 1,000 members of UAW Local 2300 are demanding a living wage, cost-of-living adjustments to protect against inflation, and increased staffing, among other key demands.

The video can be accessed here, and the media is invited to use the footage.

“House is double. Tax is double. Food is double. And tuition is double also,” Gopini Lama, a food service worker at Cornell, says in the video. “Everything doubled, but our pay did not double.”

Since 2020, the university’s endowment has increased by a staggering 39% while many workers can no longer afford to live in Ithaca or even pay for parking on campus.

“I don’t own a single thing in this life except for a 12-year-old car,” says Mitja Bontempo, a gardener at the university. “I don’t have the money to marry and have kids if I want to. They take us for granted. We are not adequately recognized and compensated. That’s the bottom line.”

“We’re chronically short-staffed. We’re chronically dealing with at least one or two positions absent,” says Leo Louis, a greenhouse grower at Cornell. “So that’s where you get into a situation where you’re working seven, eight days in a row. But you don’t get overtime, so workers burn out. So, then you’re more likely to lose more people.”

Negotiations are taking place at Cornell during a historic wave of unionization at college and universities across the country as workers continue to stand up and demand justice on and off the job.

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Contact Information

Jonah Furman

Feldman Strategies, team@feldmanstrategies.com