Campaign advocates for greater respect for cleaning staff
March 9, 2017
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The Allegheny College Democrats’ Coalition for Labor organized a campaign in support of the housekeeping staff of St. Moritz Building Services between Monday, March 5 and Wednesday, March 8. The campaign was designed to raise awareness about the working conditions of the cleaning staff following a 10 percent cut in their budget, and also to insist that no further cuts be made.
In December, according to President of College Democrats Emily Scanlon, ’19, a petition asking that no further cuts be made was sent to President James Mullen, Executive Vice President Eileen Petula and Director of Physical Plant Cliff Willis, along with a memorandum in support of the workers.
The petition garnered 522 student signatures, and Scanlon said part of the campaign will be working to get more.
Following the cuts, St. Moritz was forced to reduce the number of hours its employees work, according to Allegheny College Democrats Adviser and Assistant Professor of Political Science Andrew Bloeser. He said the cleaning staff now has less time to clean each building.
The memorandum asserts that the job of the cleaning staff has been made “impossible” by the cut and it is unfair to ask them to do so much work in so little time.
“Due to the cuts, they are overworked and overwhelmed. By not offering them security and equity, we risk compromising fundamental parts of our collective identity,” the memorandum reads in part.
Julia Robinson, ’18, co-chair of the Coalition for Labor, said the point of the campaign is to ensure that members of the cleaning staff are treated like any other staff member and that, at the very least, further cuts not be made.
“We see the cleaning staff as part of our community and we want to see them treated with equity,” Robinson said.
Bloeser said he discussed the issue with Petula at a Finance and Facilities Committee meeting, and said she seemed receptive.
“[Petula] said she has heard our concerns,” Bloeser said.
Robinson agreed and said the campaign seems to have been heard by the administration. She said she feels it is “on their radar.”
“Right now, we are just waiting and waiting to see if anything else happens,” Robinson said.
Petula said she feels the cut has had an effect on the cleanliness of buildings on campus.
“I saw the results of the cuts myself,” Petula said.
The college, according to Petula, is working to address the issue. She said she hopes to have a meeting with the building managers in order to discuss solutions.
“I want to work with St. Moritz’s to reach a level of services we feel is appropriate,” Petula said.
Bloeser said Willis also met with the College Democrats upon receiving the petition and memorandum and said in addition to the cuts there had been incidents that have made the jobs of the cleaning staff more difficult. He said students have defecated in showers and common areas, forcing the cleaning staff to take more time out of their already tight work schedule.
Upon hearing this, Scanlon said the College Democrats added increasing student respect for cleaning staff to their agenda.
“We are hoping that even if the maintenance budget is not restored, their job will not be made harder by students,” Scanlon said.
Scanlon said the campaign is also about acknowledging the work the cleaning staff does on a regular basis to keep the buildings on campus clean.
“We also want the maintenance workers to know that we see them and appreciate them,” Scanlon said.
Increasing student respect was something the College Democrats saw as essential, Robinson said. She said asking the administration to treat the cleaning staff with respect and not asking students to do the same would be hypocritical.
“What we are doing is asking students to simply respect the cleaning staff,” Robinson said.
As a member of the Finance and Facilities Committee, Robinson said she understands the reasons for the cuts. However, she said the budget cuts should not fall solely on the shoulders of the cleaning staff.
“[Students] have to be willing to share the weight of the burden,” Robinson said.
As part of the campaign, Cody Baumeister, ’20, co-chair of the Coalition for Labor, said the College Democrats placed signs across campus, including in residence halls. The signs, Baumeister said, included a picture and a quote from one of the workers responsible for cleaning that building.
One such sign included a quote from Jerome Moore.
“It’s important to keep the buildings here clean. We take pride in what we do, but we need help to keep this place looking good,” the quote from Moore read.
Robinson said these signs will also be part of a social media campaign aimed at spreading the same message.
The signs, Bloeser said, were the cleaning staff’s way of speaking. He said they preferred not to speak directly to any member of the press.