Letter to the Editor: Fighting for workers’ rights

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September 30, 2010

8:54 PM

Housekeepers and students won a major victory last week in their campaign for better working conditions and a living wage for College of William and Mary housekeepers. On the same day four workers and three students met with Vice President for Administration Anna Martin and Vice President for Student Affairs Ginger Ambler ’88 Ph.D. ’06 to discuss worker demands, Residence Life began hiring temporary workers to fill the seven vacant housekeeping positions; they also began the interview process to hire workers for permanent positions. This victory is a direct result of the pressure workers and students have put on the administration to fill vacant positions through the Living Wage Campaign. Not only does the hiring of temporary workers prove that there is room in the budget to maintain an adequate level of housekeeping staff members, but it also shows how effective the Living Wage Campaign has been in accomplishing worker demands. The hiring of temporary workers marks a short-term solution to a primary demand in the campaign: that vacant positions in housekeeping staff be filled.

Temporary workers, who began working this week, have already alleviated much of the additional, labor-intensive work which housekeepers are responsible for completing when vacancies exist. Still, the temporary workers are far from an adequate or permanent solution in regard to the issue of vacancies.
According to at least one temporary worker, their positions at the College will end in three weeks. If the positions are not filled by permanent workers, housekeepers risk facing the daily task of compensating with hard, physical labor for vacant positions that the College is capable of filling. The College must hire permanent workers for these vacancies now and implement a policy that agrees to fill vacancies within one month of a position opening up.

Demands regarding vacancies are one part of a larger campaign to increase worker wages and salaries to better reflect the cost of living in Williamsburg. To that end, workers are demanding a starting wage of $15 per hour — which translates into an annual salary of $31,200. Additionally, workers are demanding a retroactively applied raise of $0.50 per hour for every year of employment at the College. To give an idea of the disparity between the acceptable wage of $15 per hour and what workers are earning now, consider the median income of the 104 housekeepers registered in Human Resources earning a salary: $21,382. Information concerning hourly workers is in the process of being collected.

Today, workers and students are holding a meet and greet at noon by the Crim Dell Meadow at which members from the campus community can talk with workers and learn from the housekeepers themselves just what is at stake in this campaign. At 12:30 p.m., the coalition of workers, students, parents and faculty are sending a delegation to President Taylor Reveley to make worker demands heard. By hiring temporary workers, the administration has proven responsive to campaign efforts. With more campus support, we can finally achieve the level of visibility, respect and living wages that the members of our community deserve.

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