Archive for the ‘worker’s rights’ Category
Campus looked much different today. Trash was overflowing from garbage cans, empty bottles and boxes stood guard over steps, toilet paper was tangled up on the bathroom floor yet none could be found in their proper dispensers. Campus felt emptier today, some presence that is normally overlooked in the background was suddenly, noticeably gone. Starting yesterday, the maintenance workers have gone on strike. They gathered in the open passage way between the administrative building and HUSS. Sitting on the bamboo seats that normally hold students, they formed a determined group facing the administrative building. Some upheld signs. Some of them read, “We need out Rights!!” and “Mercy for Worker” in English. All around them stands Security, a disperse yet very apparent blue ring. I had heard about the strikes yesterday, but they began after I was already on the opposite side of campus and preparing to catch the bus so I did not get to see it. Today I walked past and through it numerous times since I had three classes in HUSS. Throughout the day I noticed it grow larger in size as students joined them. Also, around campus I saw the trash starting to pile up, a clear symbol of the importance of the workers. The workers are on strike for many reasons. I will come back and add on to this post once I get more concrete facts, yet the key points they are fighting for are increased wages, health insurance, Saturday off of work, and better quality meals. I’m not entirely sure about the validity of the following statements, but from what I understand, currently they only make around 600 LE per month, which is only a little over $100. Of that, 200 LE is taken away for food. The food that they are served is of poor quality, small quantity, and there have even been cockroaches found inside. In addition, they work every single day of the week, have long hours, and then have the two hour round trip commute to and from campus. Some professors cancelled clas today. My Political Sociology professor canceled class to show solidarity with the workers and he was out at the strike for most of the day. I went to the strike during that canceled class hour and at this point in the strike, the negotiations between the administration and the workers had already begun about an hour and a half earlier. When negotiations began there was a lot of cheering, singing of the national anthem, and noise-making. I was trying to take my Arabic midterm at the time and it was very hard to focus since not only was it loud, but I really wanted to go outside and see all that was unfolding. When I did make it to the strike, there were some speakers presenting. There were some students talking, telling the workers that they have the support of the students. I was able to translate a sign in Arabic that translates into “The University students stand with her workers.” In addition, throughout the day students have fed the striking workers and giving them something to drink. In response to the student support, the workers started a short chat of “tuloob, tuloob!” or “students, students!” Next, a very vocal and powerful woman took the mic and began to go over their demands and plans for continuing the strike on Saturday. It will be very interesting to see how events unfold. The TA for my Arabic class was saying that in any other university in Egypt a strike like this would not have been able to take place and that anti-riot police would have shown up and the while things would have been dispersed by now. The reason it is able to take place here is because of its association with America,but more importantly because AUC very many rich students who have influential parents. Thus, the students taking part in the protest do not feel like they have anything to lose and that no harm will come to them for their participation. I find it very ridiculous that this university can treat its workers so poorly. This is the most expensive school in Egypt, has the richest students, and wants to attract international and American students. There is no justification for the poor treatment of the workers and their abysmal wages. The tuition that I pay to AUC is equal to that which I pay in the U.S. and the workers at my school definitely get paid so much more. it is saddening to think that an institution for higher learning which espouses that it is “dedicated to making significant contributions to Egypt” in its mission is able to exploit its workers so nonchalantly. The administration is most likely to give in, yet probably not because it cares about workers rights, but since it wants to attract financial support and international students…and since they will get tired of wading through trash.
*This Post was written Thursday, October 28. I accidentally posted it on my other UMW blog.