The Other Side of the Picket Line: Contract, Democracy, and Power in a Law School Classroom


The University of Miami (UM)-my home institution until last year-is known by many for its highly ranked sports teams and, more recently, for the academic prominence increasingly reflected in the annual U.S. News & World Report polls. But readers may be less familiar with UM’s place in a rather different ranking. In August 2001, the Chronicle of Higher Education reported the results of a survey of janitorial pay in American universities. To the mortification of virtually everyone in the UM community, the wages paid campus janitors-technically the employees of Unicco, UM’s custodial and landscaping services contractor-ranked 194th out of the 195 surveyed institutions. What’s worse, UM was one of a dozen schools where janitorial staff actually received less than the federal poverty wage. And worse still, a study commissioned by the UM Faculty Senate in the wake of the Chronicle story revealed that the workers in question received virtually no health-care benefits and were relegated instead to emergency rooms and charitable clinics for what little medical attention they were able to secure.

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