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'All we want is what's fair:' Campus workers publicly read updated demands

Tracy Harter, Vinyasa Burnette and Trey Anthony call out for better pay for UNC Housekeepers outside of the Campus Y on Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2023.

Campus and graduate workers gathered outside the Campus Y Wednesday afternoon to read a list of updated demands.

The group of about 20 campus and graduate workers publicly read the list for the first time while the UNC System Board of Governors met at the UNC System Office. The demands expand upon those brought to the University's administration in September.

Trey Anthony, president of The Workers Union at UNC and a doctoral candidate in the University’s department of romance languages, said the gathering was an exciting moment.

“We are going public with our 10 demands that we're going to then send to (the BOG) and wait for their response or for them to ignore us,” Anthony said. “They're kind of the culmination of all the work that we've been doing on campus, with housekeepers and other campus workers, with grad students, and then also all of the public universities across the state that we've been in touch with.”

UNC housekeeper Kinyasa Burnette agreed with another housekeeper, Tracy Harter, that the updated demands outlined items that were necessities for campus workers. 

“These are a list not of wishes or wants. We're giving you a list of what we need,” Harter said, directed at the Board of Governors. “We need this, and we expect you to respect us enough to give it to us.”

Some attendees passed around union membership forms during the gathering.

“Most people, this is their first time,” Dante Strobino, a UE-150 organizer, said. “So there’s been a lot of conversations about what a union is and dispelling all the myths of that. But folks are really excited to be part of an organization that is statewide — that has power, that's making changes, that really is there to attend to their needs.”

After speaking with those gathered, Strobino recorded as Burnette, Anthony and Harter read the demands aloud to the group of gathered housekeepers, campus and graduate workers. 

The UNC chapter of The Workers Union partnered with other chapters of UE-150, an organization that advocates for the rights of public workers in North Carolina, to create the new list of demands on behalf of campus and graduate workers of the UNC system. 

Harter said that the updated demands are meant to enable campus workers like herself to live better lives.

“We want our demands to be met, to have a living wage. We have single mothers, we have seniors like myself, and with the rising cost of everything, all we want is what's fair,” she said. “We want to survive — we want to do more than barely get by.”

The original demands, mainly $20 per hour wages for campus workers and free parking for both campus and graduate workers, were first brought to UNC administration in the fall. 

The updated demands include the previous demands and also call for the Board of Governors to declare its support for the repeal of a North Carolina law that does not allow employees of public institutions to sign legally-enforceable collective bargaining agreements. 

Anthony said the group would not stop fighting for the changes.

"We are not going to rest until our demands are met and we have dignity for the working people across the UNC system,” he said. “We're trying to send the message that we are here and we are united, and we are fighting back."

Media representatives from the UNC System did not respond for comment by the time of publication. 


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