Recent allegations surrounding the understaffing of facilities workers in the Healey Family Student Center have raised larger concerns from students regarding the treatment of workers on campus.
Continued negotiations between the university and the Service Employees International Union 1199 Union Local, which took place this past Thursday, Tuesday and Wednesday may provide improvements to current standards for workers.
Since the facility opened in September 2014, the Office of Planning and Facilities Management has assigned eight workers to clean the 44,000 square foot building from 5:30 a.m. until opening at 7:00 a.m, according to workers interviewed by The Hoya.
The eight workers who clean the HFSC are also assigned regular night shifts at other buildings, which generally take place from 10:30 p.m. until 5 a.m.
Workers are bargaining for a 5 percent raise to match their workload and to match inflation in the District of Columbia.
Members of the Georgetown Solidarity Committee demonstrated outside of McShain Large Lounge in the McCarthy Residence Hall during negotiations to demonstrate their support.
“As workers were leaving the negotiation room, there was a lot of positive reception,” GSC member Esmeralda Huerta (SFS ’17) said. “It feels like the university is finally listening to us.”
The GSC is pushing for a $15 starting wage, tying yearly raises in pay to inflation and ending understaffing and alleged racism.
According to a night shift worker in the Rafik B. Hariri Building, who asked to remain anonymous, he and his co-workers earn under $15 an hour with a $1 surplus for night workers.
Michael McCannon, a custodian who cleans the HFSC after he cleans the Walsh Building, said the burden of cleaning the building within a short time period poses challenges for the cleaning team.
“I can’t do all the work,” McCannon said. “Some days I fall short.”
McCannon said he and other members of the cleaning staff have communicated their concerns to supervisors during staff meetings, but said management staff have not taken steps to address these concerns.
McCannon said current working conditions are unsustainable.
“They’re not hiring anybody, they’re not raising any wages and they’ve increased our workload,” McCannon said. “We’re being overworked, underpaid, disrespected and not dignified.”
Concerns of understaffing on campus are not unique to the HFSC. One emergency facilities response worker, who asked to remain anonymous for employment reasons, said the campus is understaffed on weekends. While there are four people responsible for responding to emergencies in three campus buildings during weekdays, he is the sole response worker available on call during weekends.
Additionally, the worker said emergency facilities response workers do not have access to transportation and must report to sites by foot, often making it difficult to respond quickly to emergencies.
The night worker stationed at the Rafik B. Hariri Building also said his department is understaffed. The worker said issues related to understaffing have only worsened during his five years on staff.
He also said the wages earned do not correspond to the work demanded. Like McCannon, he said he has tried to express his concerns to supervisors, but has not received a response.
“A lot of the time they avoid us when we try to discuss these things,” he said.
According to the worker at Hariri Building, the relationships between supervisors and workers do not create a positive working environment, with supervisors unfairly dividing overtime work between workers and remaining generally unresponsive to worker concerns.
“When you see your supervisors treating you like you’re nothing, it doesn’t give you the energy to come in,” the worker said. “We love the students, but when you have to deal with reality, it’s back with management. It’s mentally challenging.”
Huerta said she disagrees with Vice President of Planning and Facilities Management Robin Morey’s management strategy.
“What he’s done so far is create a lot of managerial roles, so he’s bringing in people but not people who are on the grounds doing actual work,” Huerta said.
The Hariri night worker said he is disappointed with the disparity between union workers and management staff’s pay.
“If you look at what those guys up there are earning compared to us,” he said, “It’s total disrespect.”
In a statement to The Hoya, the Office of Facilities Management said that Georgetown uses industry standard benchmarks from organizations such as APPA, an educational facilities organization, to determine staffing levels for maintenance and cleaning operations.
Office of Communications Media Relations Manager Ryan King said facilities has filled roughly 20 union represented jobs since January 2016 and continues to post jobs.
King said the addition of the HFSC shifts to workers’ assignments was not expected to place a significant burden on existing staff as it was an incremental increase on existing space being cleaned. The HFSC was previously a dining hall for residents in New South before it was remodeled in 2014.
Additionally, 10 new facilities staff members will be hired as a result of the opening of Pedro Arrupe, S.J. Hall and the Thompson Athletic Center, according to King.
Workers and GSC members both argue for a general need for dignity and respect in the workplace.
“You need to respect your workers,” McCannon said. “You cannot treat them as if they’re your slave or your child.”
Correction: This article previously stated the HFSC cleaning staff were contracted by cleaning firm P&R Enterprises and had signed a contract in June dictating workloads would remain the same; the HFSC cleaning staff are employed directly by the university and the contract does not apply to them.
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