Allegheny College contracts St. Moritz Building Services to help with all on-campus cleaning services.
“The workers who are employed by St. Moritz organized into a union — the Workers United Union,” said Andrew Bloeser, assistant professor of political science.
The Workers United Union has a bulletin board in the basement of Schultz Hall that they use to post things such as pamphlets and literature about their rights as workers and the phone numbers of the shop stewards.
The shop stewards are union members who were elected by the other workers to represent them and help them navigate the workplace.
At the beginning of October, Linda Gomma, the campus workers union representative, brought pins that read “union proud” to distribute to union members and left extras on the union’s board for members she could not reach directly.
A few days later, Gomma received a call from one of the shop stewards informing her that the board had been vandalized.
“Someone came in and ripped all that stuff down and spray painted on the board and spray painted over all the union buttons,” Bloeser said. “This was obviously very intentional, very deliberate. … Regardless of whether the person who did this had some political agenda or not, I think it was certainly bothersome and, perhaps, wounding.”
Many members of the union were upset to find their board destroyed, since it is a vital part of their communication.
“I was really upset because (the bulletin board) is my communication with my coworkers,” Jen Garnett said. “I am a third-shift union representative steward, and that is how I communicate with my fellow workers.”
In her five years working for St. Moritz, Garnett said this is the first time she has ever seen their board vandalized.
Half of the board was left unusable as a result of the vandalism, according to Garnett.
“This is (the workers) community, too,” Bloeser said. “We think of the Allegheny College community, and that includes all of us — that includes students, faculty and staff, and I think we should think of it even more broadly to encompass workers who might not necessarily be employed by the college, but who still do vital services.”
Students from Bloeser’s course “Democracy for the Few” have been working to add campus workers to the College’s statement of community. Ashley Leonard, ’20, is one of the students working on amending Allegheny’s statement of community.
“Our mission is to pass this resolution (through Allegheny Student Government) in order to get the attention of college administrators,” Leonard said. “This is just the first step in a long process that will continue in the new year.”
Students from the course are looking to add the word “classism” and the phrase “and contributions that all workers make through their labor” to the College’s statement of community.
“It is important that labor workers are respected and are a part of our community statement since they work on this campus and are a part of our campus,” Leonard said.
College Democrats, Workers United Union, the Administrative Advisory Committee, the Staff Advisory Committee and a select group of workers from McKinley’s Food Court and Brooks Dining Hall have provided written statements in support of amending the statement of community, according to Leonard.
In addition, Leonard said an online petition in support of amending the statement received 200 signatures.
“We actually had students coming up to our table and asking what they could do more on top of signing the document,” Leonard said. “We haven’t had any pushback from students wondering why we think the workers deserve this. I think there is a consensus that they do deserve this.”
Students in “Democracy for the few” followed the lead of students who formed a coalition for labor and circulated a petition that received 600 student signatures in support of reconsidering budget cuts that would affect campus workers, according to Bloeser.
“Some of the students involved in (the coalition for labor) — toward the end of their senior year before they graduated — they wanted to see if they could add something to the statement of community,” Bloeser said. “By the time students got around to crafting this, we kind of ran out of time at the end of last year, so some new students picked it up this year.”
Gomma hopes that the addition to the statement of community will help workers feel more apart of the campus community.
“The College doesn’t exist and doesn’t thrive without all of our work,” Bloeser said. “We need this kind of a statement to say that all of us belong to this community and all of us will be respected.”