Cross-posted from SomervilleVoices.org.
Hi, my name is Kevin and I’m a full-time student at Tufts University, where I started a student group, the Jumbo Janitor Alliance. The group focuses on bringing Tufts janitors more into the Tufts community. The janitors are currently in contract negotiations with their employer, the cleaning contractor ABM/One Source. Due to current labor laws, the union which represents the workers, Service Employees International Union local 615, may only target and deal with the cleaning contractor and is allowed only very limited interaction with 3rd parties, namely Tufts. Therefore, the union relies on students, such as myself, and community members, to put pressure on Tufts so that the university will ensure that its janitors receive the pay and benefits they deserve.
Tufts strategically made themselves a 3rd party, and yet retain control over workers’ pay and benefits, by outsourcing the janitorial services in the early 1990s. Since the cleaning contractor is pretty much a skeleton company, with very little profit margins, it is up to the client (Tufts) to decide what the janitors are paid, as whatever Tufts pays the contractor translates into pay for the workers. Tufts was actually one of the first schools in Boston to outsource its janitors, leading to drastic pay cuts and loss of Tufts benefits for all the workers involved. This is a little bit contradictory for a school that purports a .
commitment to social justice.
The workers are currently in negotiations with ABM/One Source (the cleaning contractor). The workers’ biggest demands are wage increases, move from part-time to full-time work (part-time workers don’t receive any benefits), and more sick days (the workers only have 3 per year right now). In order to make this happen though, the university must be pressured to make the right decisions and pay the contractor more, so that the workers may get their demands. In the past, Tufts has tried to shed all their responsibility in the matter, saying this was strictly a concern between the workers and the contractor. Yet, this is clearly not the case, and Tufts will only accept its responsibility if pressured to do so.
Given that negotiations are during the summer, many students, a valuable resource for community action, cannot get involved in the bargaining process and pressure the university (this scheduling was done on purpose). Therefore, most of the pressure must come from staff, faculty, and the surrounding community. There are many ways to take action, whether small or large, to help the workers in this pivotal time that determines much of their livelihood for the next four years. Tufts University President Lawrence Bacow’s email address is Bacow@tufts.edu and his phone number is 617-627-3300. If he were to receive a multitude of calls and emails about this issue from the surrounding community, it would send a powerful message that would help move the administration to action in the current contract negotiations. Another way to help out is to be part of a delegation of concerned community members and request a meeting with the President to discuss this issue in more detail. To just learn more about this issue, please visit the blog justicefortuftsjanitors.blogspot.com and if you have any questions, feel free to email me at Kevin.Dillon@tufts.edu.