The strike at Miami University of Ohio is over and although we did not gain much monetarily, we consider it a big first step and a great moral victory. We went out against the odds. We had no previous strike experience, no strike fund, and less than half our bargaining unit with us. And we were up against a university administration that does not see its workers as having intrinsic worth and has a lot of money available to spend on keeping us down.

In spite of this, something happened here at Miami that is rarely observed in life. Some percentage of the members of AFSCME Local 209 decided to put their self-interest aside and base their actions on a deeper conviction about what is right and just. A group of janitors, maintenance people, and food service workers decided to take a stand. People found their voice, where yesterday we heard mostly silence. New leaders emerged. We saw courage displayed where yesterday there was mostly fear. We saw people chanting and marching together - yesterday there was mostly isolation.

We learned a lot. We learned that most of the university community is behind us! We experienced a great outpouring of support from both within and outside the Miami family, both financial and otherwise. Barbara Ehrenreich, one of the great champions of the working poor in America, who was at Miami supporting the workers before the strike, made a very large financial contribution to our strike fund! We also learned that doing a strike takes a lot of preparation. We are asking questions now that we never thought of before! Meg Riccio, a worker from Yale, who came here to support us during the strike, told us that while she has been at Yale they have been on strike six times! According to Meg, they learned from each experience and then finally put it all together this past summer!

Certainly one of the crowning achievements of our brief exercise in social justice was a resolution overwhelmingly approved by the Miami University Senate in support of AFSCME Local 209! After receiving their vote of confidence during the strike, we followed their lead - we began our next bargaining session with the university with an offer that was based on the senate's recommendations. It became quickly apparent however that the university had not altered its position based on the senate's resolution - what they came back with was "no", "no", "no" until we finally found ourselves back to little more than their "best and final" offer, which was on the table prior to the strike.

In a letter to the faculty following the strike, the administration of Miami University offered that market economics rule at Miami and they justified paying poverty wages to many of its workers simply because they can. In their letter, they also stated that a living wage is hard to define, suggesting that such a policy would be difficult to implement. We in Local 209 believe that the same might be said of democracy and believe that though these concepts may indeed be difficult to define, we know when they are present, or not, in our lives. From our perspective at AFSCME Local 209, many here at Miami do not receive a living wage and democracy does not exist here either.

The term plutocracy signifies a style of governance where corporate interest rules. In this model, market economics control all and people are little more than resources serving the profit seeking agenda of the corporate elite - some people are of course more valuable than others, but no one is considered to have intrinsic value. We believe this model applies here at Miami! Who are the corporate elite that rule at Miami? The Board of Trustees is dominated by two executives from the Cintas Corporation - a corporation with perhaps the worst labor record of any company in the United States. For more info go to: One of these individuals is Richard T. Farmer, the founder of Cintas, who also happens to be one of the largest financial contributors to Miami University. Richard T. Farmer is also one of the largest contributors to the Republican Party - he was the second largest personal contributor to the presidential campaign fund of President Bush in the last election. Richard T. Farmer buys influence with his money, and the administration of Miami is so deep into his pockets that they cannot see the light of day.

Things don't have to be this way at Miami. By way of exception, simply consider the history of the Living Wage movement at Harvard. At Harvard, they no longer pay their workers according to a supply and demand model. Certainly they have their own Richard T. Farmer's at Harvard, and they may have lost some financial contributions as a result of implementing a more compassionate and just system of compensation for their workers. We in Local 209 imagine however, that what they may have lost was likely made up by increases in contributions by alums who felt proud of the actions taken by a more compassionate and humane administration at Harvard. Unfortunately based on the arrests of two activist alumni, the occurrence of what is in our opinion a retaliatory firing of a bargaining unit worker, and the anticipated arrests of a couple of students - all in the immediate aftermath of the strike - it seems unlikely that the administration here at Miami will voluntarily follow Harvard's suit.

We are taking some time now to capture what we learned - beginning our strike preparations today, by learning from yesterday. We'll be back in 2006 - stronger, smarter, and more unified! Thanks to everyone who supported us!

Bill DeVore
AFSCME Local 209
Miami University