University, Union Reach Tentative Agreement
University stands by 2 percent wage increase

COURTESY GEORGETOWN SOLIDARITY COMMITTEE After presenting a petition to the university advocating for increased worker wages last Tuesday, members of the Georgetown Solidarity Committee, pictured, expressed concerns over the tentative agreement.

COURTESY GEORGETOWN SOLIDARITY COMMITTEE
After presenting a petition to the university advocating for increased worker wages last Tuesday, members of the Georgetown Solidarity Committee, pictured, expressed concerns over the tentative agreement.

After five months of negotiations, the university reached a tentative agreement with the union representing Georgetown’s facilities workers Wednesday to increase annual wages by 2 percent, falling short of the 1199 SEIU’s original demand of a 6 percent increase.

The agreement, obtained Monday night by The Hoya, comes before yesterday’s contract renewal deadline between the university and facilities workers, who are currently reviewing the agreement for ratification.

The agreement is the same contract the university initially offered facilities workers in June.

The current contract expired Oct. 30 after it was extended from its initial June 30 contract end.

The workers will vote on the proposal in the next few weeks. If the vote passes, the negotiations on wages will come to an end.

In addition to a 2 percent annual increase in wages, the agreement denotes a $0.25 increase in wages every year until June 2019. The proposal requires all minimum wages to increase to $13.50 per hour by June 2017 and $14.25 per hour by June 2019, in line with Washington, D.C. minimum wage increases. The tentative agreement does not address workers’ health care and parking benefits.

The union originally demanded a 6 percent annual increase in wages and similar parking and health care benefits to what workers at the Georgetown University MedStar Hospital receive.

Facilities workers currently pay $140 per month for parking and $15 for health care visits.

Workers have argued the proposed wage increase does not sufficiently account for the rising cost of living in Washington, D.C. Facilities workers interviewed by The Hoya said they were disappointed with the university’s proposal and the union’s negotiation efforts.

A facilities worker who asked to remain anonymous said the university’s wages do not cover living expenses for the D.C. area even though he has worked for the university for over a decade.

“I have been here for over 10 years and only make $14.24 an hour,” the worker said. “That is below the standard in this area for any maintenance workers or housekeeping in this whole entire region and that is below living wages.”

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Consumer Price Index for all urban consumers in the Washington D.C.-Baltimore area has increased 0.8 percent from September 2015 to September 2016.

A second facilities worker who asked to remain anonymous said she is disappointed with the end result.

“If it was 2 percent, then I am really upset, because 2 percent really does nothing for us,” the worker said.

The worker also said she was disappointed by the administration’s lack of care toward the workers.

“We basically make it $40 a day for eight hours of work and I don’t think anyone has sat down and seen what small of an amount of money it is,” the worker said. “What I am really surprised at is how Georgetown is always in the news about helping employees become better overall, but they do nothing for the people here that are making the least amount of money.”

The worker voiced her displeasure at the efforts of the union, which she believes does not represent them properly for the high membership fee they charge.

“I have been here four years. We have had three different representatives. The main person who represents us comes in, introduces us to other people and we don’t see him anymore,” the worker said. “With the amount of money that we are making versus paying the union, as far as I am concerned, they can get rid of the union. It does nothing for us.”

In response to the university’s original offer, Georgetown Solidarity Committee, a student group advocating for workers’ rights, has organized protests and demonstrations both on the main campus and at the Georgetown University Law Center to support workers over the past month.

On Oct. 25, GSC led more than 50 students and facilities workers on a march from Red Square to University President John J. DeGoia’s office to deliver a petition signed by over 1,000 members of the Georgetown community.

The petition demanded “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.”

Senior Director for Strategic Communications Rachel Pugh said the university values its employees and hopes the agreement is satisfactory for facilities workers to ratify it.

“We are proud of our facilities workers and deeply appreciate all that they do to support our university community,” Pugh wrote in an email to The Hoya.

GSC held a meeting last night to discuss the agreement’s terms and the upcoming vote. GSC said despite the perception of dissatisfaction with the proposal among workers, it will stand by them and support them regardless of the vote’s outcome.

“While Georgetown Solidarity Committee has spoken to workers who are unhappy about the proposed contract, the next step is for workers to vote on it,” GSC members wrote. “GSC will support whatever decision they make.”

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