A loud unified roar fills the air. It is the voice of temporary employees who are treated differently than the regular workforce. Wearing red vests and placards, their struggle may seem insignificant; however, some students are standing with them. SMT interviewed students who stand together with temporary employees. Mannyeonseol, the union for temporary employees at Sookmyung Women's University, listens to the plight of temporary workers and strives to create a better future for laborers.
Thank you for accepting this interview with us today. Would you please briefly introduce ‘Mannyeonseol’ and its objectives?
We are a group of 10,000 snowflakes (Sookmyungians) banding together with the temporary workforce at Sookmyung Women’s University. As the name implies, the group is comprised of students working together with temporary workers on campus such as landscapers and security workers. Both the prior year and this year, we have been involved with talks on resolving the situation between demands of temporary workers and the school. Because the collective bargaining of wages has yet to be settled, we devote most of our energy to it. The purpose behind the collective bargaining of wages for workers at Sookmyung Women’s University is to obtain the same wage payment as at other universities. Also, beyond minimum wage, the goal is to succeed in guaranteeing them livable wages so that they can live in comfort. Besides joining this struggle, we hope to establish a bridge that connects students with laborers.
You must have to make many decisions and put forth great effort for the laborers at Sookmyung Women’s University. Would you please tell our readers how and why the foundation of Mannyeonseol came about?
Last summer, temporary staffs protested their situation on campus. Seeing their unified struggle and determination, students began pondering the question, ‘Why are there people protesting at Sookmyung Women’s University when we are an equal opportunity community?’ At first, students were merely curious, but as soon as they heard the stories of workers, they became determined to stand with the workers and for their movement. Students founded the group Mannyeonseol and joined with the protesting workers to guarantee every members in Sookmyung community happiness. We are devoted to solidarity and equality for all. The motto Mannyeonseol pursues is ‘Equality at Sookmyung’. In addition to aid temporary workers on campus, we wish to create a school environment in which everyone at Sookmyung Women’s University lives happily. Solidarity is increased when we listen to others’ stories and challenges and when we hold each other’s hands as equals. We must work for solidarity, but also hold fast to the ideal of fairness. The struggle of workers at Sookmyung Women’s University will soon blossom into true equality for all.
What is the most urgent problem regarding school workers’ rights that needs addressing?
Sookmyung Women’s University needs to directly hire workers than hiring them through a contractor. Before discussing permanent or temporary positions, the biggest issue is the huge barrier that the contractor recreates between Sookmyung Women’s University and workers. It is odd that staffs at Sookmyung Women’s University are not actually a part of the Sookmyung’s family. Moreover, the cost of paying an outside company to provide Sookmyung Women’s University with temporary workers is not small. To recognize all Sookmyung members as family, Sookmyung Women’s University needs to hire the employees directly.
What has been the most memorable activity while working for Mannyeonseol?
Every moment is new and memorable. However, the most impressive event was the donation of an entire day’s pay of 75,300 won by Sookmyungians to help support the work of Mannyeonseol. Since we, too, have worked part-time, we know that was not an easy decision to donate an entire day’s work payment. We were so impressed and grateful. In addition, thanks to all our sponsors and the donations of fellow students we have been able to keep on with this work. They have supplied the backbone support for our crusade. They have also provided valuable opinions through communities such as Everytime. Reading and reflecting on their comments, we make adjustments and feel empowered to work harder and harder. With so many of our schoolfellows actively cheering and supporting us on, we get continuously refreshed and overcome fatigue. Many of the problems we face in real life are nothing when compared to the need to show support for the workers on campus.
It’s obvious that Mannyeonseol is making headway with talks between workers and students, including publishing a ‘Human Rights Guidebook’. Would you tell us more about it?
The human rights guidebook hopes to lessen workers’ negative comments towards students as well as provide understanding of issues so that students who were hurt by comments may heal. At the moment, the guidebook has yet to be produced, but we are trying to get it published and released as soon as possible. The group also has regular meetings with the Chairperson of the Labor Union in order to communicate students’ stories to authorities. The Chairperson has great sympathy for the concerns of students and is determined to make sure improvements are made quickly. Right now we operate the Facebook page ‘10,000 snowflakes banding together with laborers at Sookmyung: Mannyeonseol‘. We upload our activities and photos on the page frequently. If anyone wants more information, we also have lots of detailed information on the online school community, Everytime. We often post notices there to encourage more Sookmyungians to join our crusade and activities. We welcome new members through registration using the banner or QR code posted on the school bulletin board. Anyone wishing to receive more specific information may contact us on the Kakao Talk open chat room.
On your hand written poster you mentioned not only worker’s rights, but also hatred of gender queer. It was quite impressive. Would you tell us your position on human rights Mannyeonseol rejects?
Like before I said, ultimately, we want all members of Sookmyung to be happy. To make that dream a reality, we need to address student equality. The Sookmyung Women’s University community is comprised of various peoples from those with disabilities to gender minorities. Human right and equality are not privileges, but a natural one. In the years to come, we will be pursuing happiness for all Sookmyungians and making sure the socially disadvantaged have the same quality of life as all other Sookmyungians.
What is Mannyeonseol’s future goal and plan?
At the moment, we wish to set up an employment contract at the wage bargaining discussion, have Sookmyung Women’s University hire security workers directly not through a contractor, and to make temporary workers permanent staff. If Mannyeonseol continues to increase in numbers and truly reaches 10,000 snowflakes, we expect to summon all of members who has been hired through subcontractors. First and foremost, the happiness of all members at Sookmyung is our ultimate goal.
Lastly, please leave a final message for Sookmyungians.
We are still in our embryotic stage, but we promise to work hard to supplement shortcomings. Please show us continuous support. Mannyeonseol respects each and every one of you. Until the day everyone is treated equally, we will stand beside you.
1. Permanent Snow (Dictionary Definition)
2. 10,000 Snowflakes at Sookmyung Women’s University
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