On a campus that seeks to promote values of care and service, allegations of a poor working environment for university staff are alarming. In a welcome effort to improve the working conditions for university staff, a new contract seeking a 5 percent raise for Georgetown’s facilities workers is currently being negotiated by the university and the Service Employees International Union 1199 Union Local, which represents the facilities workers.
Many complaints surround the understaffing of facilities workers throughout campus, claiming the university has not adequately hired enough workers to fulfill cleaning responsibilities at the Healey Family Student Center, Pedro Arrupe, S.J. Hall and the Former Jesuit Residence.
These recent allegations are nothing new. During Winter Storm Jonas in January, some facilities employees claimed unfair treatment of not being provided adequate sleeping space, transportation to and from Georgetown and breaks during the snowstorm.
Even now, according to a worker interviewed by The Hoya, there is a sharp decrease in emergency workers during weekends — from four to one in his section of campus. In the past, workers raised concerns with their superiors, arguing that their pay discrepancies and hours created an unhealthy work environment. One facilities worker at the HFSC and Walsh Building, Michael McCannon, said, “You need to respect your workers. … You cannot treat them as if they’re your slave or your child.”
At the end of September, the university has agreed to hire 10 staff members in the near future to assist with cleaning Arrupe Hall and the Thompson Athletic Center. Yet with no clear timeline established, the university should hire new staff to address the short-term issue of understaffing and overwork while also increasing measures of transparency for workers to voice their concerns. These are essential steps in ensuring that our facilities workers can work efficiently and effectively without worries of mistreatment.
While there are various avenues to addressing issues of overwork and the neglect of a proper working environment, the Georgetown Solidarity Committee, a student group advocating for workers’ rights, laid forth a variety of arguments and demands regarding workers’ rights to which the university should adhere. The GSC is currently advocating for “raises that cover the cost of living and inflation, sufficient staff assigned to each task and work order, accountability for managers that engage in intimidation or discriminatory tactics, workplaces that are healthy and safe and accommodation for the language needs of all workers.” Such goals will serve to benefit those members of our community who operate at all hours and keep our campuses running.
GSC’s proposals are a commendable step toward alleviating the mistreatment of workers and it would be in Georgetown’s best interest to adopt the goals laid out by GSC and the SEIU 1199 with the ultimate objective of creating a community where workers can effectively express their complaints without fear of reprimand, while not being forced to work beyond their effective capacity.
In addition, Vice President for Planning and Facilities Management Robin Morey should enact steps to reform the management structure within facilities in an effort to allow for facilities workers to perform in a more equitable and effective capacity. Establishing a system that would allow workers to air grievances without fear of reprimand would be beneficial and increase the overall transparency of how workers perform every-day operations among the community as a whole.
Facilities workers are integral to keeping Georgetown running. They are the people behind the scenes of our community’s day-to-day functions and deserve the same treatment, equity and respect that all other community members have on this campus. Their struggles and concerns should be our concerns, and this community on all levels, from the administration to the students, should advocate for their overall care and welfare.