According to reports in the Miami Herald, University of Miami (UM) students are putting unprecedented pressure on President Donna Shalala to improve conditions for about 400 janitors who struggle with low wages and no health insurance.

This student-lead debate began four years ago when the school found itself near the bottom - above only Tennessee State University - in a Chronicle of High Education survey of janitor pay at 195 universities. For the record, the men and women who keep the private school's grounds of UM impeccable work for less than $7 an hour.

Like many other private employers, UM outsources this type of work, in this case to Unicco, based in Boston.

According to Unicco, the market directs it pay policies, but they would be willing to adjust those if UM demanded it. Spokesman Doug Bailey said the average worker is paid $7.53 an hour, but the Service Employees International Union claims it is lower. In comparison, janitors working at Harvard start at an hourly wage of $13.50.

''A lot of students are waking up, realizing they make more than the Unicco workers,'' said Alyssa Cundari, 18, a freshman who has joined a relatively new group called STAND (Students Toward a New Democracy) that is working with union organizers.

"You make $6.30 an hour. You can't feed a family of four," said Jacob Croker-Dukowitz, one of the newest leaders in STAND.

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