2006.03.01: March 1, 2006: Headlines: Figures: COS - Iran: University Administration: Miami Herald: Ana Menendez says: While Shalala lives in luxury, janitors struggle

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Iran: Special Report: Iran RPCV, Cabinet Member, and University President Donna Shalala: February 9, 2005: Index: PCOL Exclusive: RPCV Donna Shalala (Iran) : October 7, 2005: Headlines: Figures: COS - Iran: University Administration: Unions: Labor Rights: Miami Herald: Janitors at University of Miami ask Donna Shalala, a former U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, to support their bid to unionize : 2006.03.01: March 1, 2006: Headlines: Figures: COS - Iran: University Administration: Miami Herald: Ana Menendez says: While Shalala lives in luxury, janitors struggle

By Admin1 (admin) (pool-151-196-186-164.balt.east.verizon.net - on Wednesday, March 22, 2006 - 6:03 am: Edit Post

Ana Menendez says: While Shalala lives in luxury, janitors struggle

Ana Menendez says: While Shalala lives in luxury, janitors struggle

Ms. Shalala: No one is going to begrudge you your 29-foot motorboat or Sweetie's four beds. But for God's sake, get these people health insurance and a dignified wage. The bare minimum, that's all they're asking. University of Miami President and former Clinton Cabinet member Donna Shalala served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Iran in the 1960's.

Ana Menendez says: While Shalala lives in luxury, janitors struggle

In my opinion

While Shalala lives in luxury, janitors struggle

Zoila Garcia has the toughest job at the University of Miami.

From 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., five nights a week, she washes windows, cleans desks and picks up the potato chip bags and used condoms that students leave behind in the library.

''Ay mamita! And when they decide to draw on those tables, it's scrub scrub scrub,'' Garcia said.

When she returns to her mobile home off Southwest Eighth Street just after dawn, she takes the pills she gets through a Jackson clinic. Some are for high blood pressure. One is for the pain in her arms.

For now, there's nothing to be done about a blood clot that formed on her calf and blackened the leg from knee to ankle. She needs an operation. But when the doctor told her it would cost $4,000, she laughed. ``Where do you get that kind of money?''

Garcia, who makes $6.70 an hour, has no health insurance.

Sunday, janitors voted to strike for better pay and insurance from the company that hires them to clean at UM. They began walking out overnight.

''I have worked hard all my life, but the situation in this country has changed,'' Zoila said. ``The cost of living is so high and no one can live with these salaries. These millionaires just don't understand the struggles of working people.''


Zoila, 51, arrived from Cuba in 1983. She has never stopped working, first picking peppers, then cleaning hotel rooms. She shares her 24- by 57-foot trailer with her dog Tribilin and her son. She helps a grown daughter with bills. But $6.70 an hour makes for a thin security blanket, and she now faces bankruptcy.

Any way you put it, Zoila Garcia is no Donna Shalala.

Two weeks ago, The New York Times Magazine printed an interview with Shalala, who was photographed amid the splendor of her 9,000-square-foot presidential residence, where she lives with her dog, Sweetie.

In the interview, Shalala describes, among other things: ''Her perfect day'' (which begins with someone giving the university a $10 million donation and ends with her playing three sets of tennis), ''What she drives'' (a Lexus hybrid SUV), ''Favorite vacation spot'' (the kingdom of Bhutan) ''Her best recent purchase'' (a 1790 French country cabinet) and ''Possession that best defines her'' (a personal drawing by Susan Kapilow).

Here are Zoila's answers to some of the same questions.

Her perfect day: ``Friday, when I get my check and know that I'll be OK for a few days.''

What she drives: ``A 1995 Ford Aerostar. When it rains outside, it rains inside.''

Her best recent purchase: ``Oh, dear. I can't buy anything . . . Well, yes, some chicken breasts. I have them in the refrigerator.''

What she's reading: ``My English study books. I just can't retain anything!''

Favorite vacation spot: ``I'd like to take my grandchildren to Parrot Jungle, but we can't afford it.''

Possession that best defines her: ``My smile. I always have a smile for everyone.''


Shalala, who as UM president makes more than $500,000 a year, has the power to make Zoila's life and the lives of 400 other janitors better. Shalala declined to comment beyond an earlier statement noting the formation of a group to look into compensation for contract workers.

Forget study groups. Shalala can begin by promising, as other university presidents have done, to hire only contractors who provide a living wage and health insurance to their workers.

What an irony that this is even an issue for Shalala, the former Clinton cabinet secretary who told the Times that what she's reading now is ``about healthcare, because I am teaching a class in it.''

Ms. Shalala: No one is going to begrudge you your 29-foot motorboat or Sweetie's four beds. But for God's sake, get these people health insurance and a dignified wage. The bare minimum, that's all they're asking.

When this story was posted in March 2006, this was on the front page of PCOL:

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PCOL is proud to announce that Phase One of the "History of the Peace Corps" is now available online. This installment includes over 5,000 pages of primary source documents from the archives of the Peace Corps including every issue of "Peace Corps News," "Peace Corps Times," "Peace Corps Volunteer," "Action Update," and every annual report of the Peace Corps to Congress since 1961. "Ask Not" is an ongoing project. Read how you can help.

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Story Source: Miami Herald

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