Letter to the Editor: Governance, tobacco bans and the worker’s perspective

Nov. 10, 2015

The Royal Purple‘s coverage of a possible tobacco ban on campus is a fantastic example of how our current system does not work.  We are just shy of four years without a Collective Bargaining Agreement, and it shows.

No matter what your political affiliation, it is clear that the experiment to have shared governance has failed.  The CBA was a massive part of the UW System backbone, and it could not be replaced simply because of a law change and people having good feelings. What we did need, and still need, is a combined effort by UW System employees the likes of which has never been seen before.  Four years into this experiment and we do not have all of the replacement policies, we do not have all the necessary forms and we certainly are not having the necessary discussions.

At the very least we need all the governance groups to meet together on a regular basis as well as increase their communications with those they represent.  The current lack of unity (and effort) on this campus has brought a low-priority issue to the forefront and is, quite frankly, wasting all of our time.

As for Whitney Henley’s letter, I have three response statements.  First, I agree we should create a campus community that promotes health.  How about vending machines that dispense fruit?  Or employee discounts for food on campus?  Or more money and labor for facility maintenance (air filters, drinking fountain filters, etc.)?  Or any of the other thousands of ideas we could do to promote health without the slightest possibility of impeding upon people’s rights?

Secondly, I appreciate the short history of the tobacco ban and the statistics, but it is all meaningless without any context.  For instance, did the other universities have other programs already in place to promote good health?  Do these other campuses have similar on-campus student life as well as a similar work force to UW-W?  How are those other campus grounds similar or different to UW-W as that has an impact on litter?  Also, less than 10 percent of the student body responded to that NCHA survey, so let’s not put too much confidence into it. 

And lastly, I suggest she (and many others on this campus) actually talk to the workers.  After all that has happened the past four years, some people now want to completely take away all tobacco products from the workers?  By all means, try to tell one of us custodians (or grounds crew) at 5 a.m., while we are removing snow, to make this campus safer that we shouldn’t be smoking or chewing.  Unless you have a hot drink and a protein bar, I suggest you don’t. 

To close on a positive note: as a custodian, I was happy to see how the campus community gradually used the outdoor ash trays and respected the 25 ft. rule.  From my vantage point, the campus has a lot less tobacco litter than it did five years ago.           

Jeff Ehren

Custodian, UW-W