Aliyya Lee is digging in her heels and ready for battle. She and the 400 other property service workers at the University of Pittsburgh are determined to win a new contract and a better life for their families and their communities.
Aliyya’s been working at the school as a cleaner for eight years. Her patience is wearing thin as she waits for a new contract. The last contract expired in December but she and her colleagues go to work day in and day out and still don’t have a new agreement.
The administration only offered workers a 1% raise. But it gave its top-tier administrators, the people who are already making a comfortable six figures 3.7% to 7% raises. Some of those people are seeing an increase of $20,000.
That’s not right.
“The cost of healthcare takes a majority of the workers’ checks,” says Aliyya. “Those with children can’t afford to cover their kids, so they put them on CHIP [government healthcare]. Many say they could not make it if they had to provide healthcare based on their wages.”
Aliyya fights because she knows what’s right. She is also the mother of two daughters, one a college senior. She will be the first to graduate college in the family. Although Aliyya’s extremely proud of her daughter’s accomplishment, she knows what her daughter and her classmates face once they graduate.
“What saddens me is that for many, including my daughter, minimum wage jobs are the reality based on our current economy. They’ve spent hundreds of thousands of dollars for their degrees, but won’t even make enough to pay for that education once they’re done. I want better for myself, my children and my community. This is why I fight!”
Aliyya says the university’s offer basically boils down to a lack of respect.
“My co-workers and I consider ourselves to be the backbone of this institution of higher learning. We bust our behinds day in and day out. The treatment we’re getting doesn’t make us feel respected or like part of the Pitt family at all.”