Early last semester, Residence Life announced a surprise new policy to the hard-working men and women who clean our dorms: starting in the spring semester, housekeepers would be required to work on weekends. This was not an extension, nor would they be earning any overtime pay in the process. Instead they were now going to work half of the day Friday and then come in Saturday mornings for four hours. The staff members were not consulted before the announcement was made, nor were students.
p. Needless to say, the staff was less than pleased. I don’t know about you, but I’m not a huge fan of waking up to work at 8 a.m. on Saturdays either. With a starting salary of $9 per hour, housekeepers working full time earn about $18,000 a year cleaning up our Chanellos boxes and Natty cans. Many have second jobs to support their families. But nevermind second jobs, or spending well–deserved rest time with their families on the weekends, the housekeepers were now informed of a mandatory weekend shift.
p. Luckily, our student body stepped up to address this gross mistreatment of the staff, and many believe that Res Life has now revoked the policy. Unfortunately, the truth is that they have postponed it and plan on implementing this policy once student opposition dies down a bit (read: over the summer when not many of us are here).
p. When I asked how the staff members felt about the change, Res Life told me that, in fact, the housekeepers were happy with the change. Excuse me? If the change was such a terrific idea, perhaps those who work in the office of Res Life would like to come in to work at 8 a.m. on Saturday mornings as well. After all, they went on to point out that there was no unified voice of opposition to the change. Isn’t it funny (and convenient) how content your employees can be with a little change in policy when you don’t have any discussion beforehand, don’t address a group worried about its job security, and prohibit unions from being formed?
p. Res Life continued, telling me that the housekeepers shouldn’t be upset because a lot of other places do this — the ever so classic “but everyone else is doing it” line of reasoning. This didn’t work for me beyond kindergarten (unfortunately). Asked if they were worried about people having to quit their jobs over the change, Res Life told me with a shrug, “Well, this is an industry with a high turnover rate.”
p. So according to the College, the housekeepers are happy about the change (completely false), they didn’t protest the change (in fear of losing their jobs they really could not), and everyone else is doing it (because that’s always a relevant point in terms of justifying something). Besides, why should we worry if they’re upset? They can quit anyway.
p. We care about impressing prospective students and keeping big donors happy, but this school does not care about its employees who earn the least. Sure, the College will object to me saying this, but the treatment of their employees speaks much louder than any statement or press release they could possibly make.
p. So it’s up to us. The College does not allow the housekeepers to have a voice, so we must become that voice. It was inspirational to see the student response to the initial announcement, but now we must ensure that the policy is shelved for good. We must let the school know that we care about the housekeepers more than we care about how much trash is on the floor on Saturday morning. Please, introduce yourself to the housekeepers who work so hard cleaning up your dorm, and let them know how much the students appreciate what they do for us. We have to show Res Life that we will not stand by and let them take advantage of their employees while we sit here twiddling our thumbs. Go ahead and give the office a call (x4314), or get everyone on your hall who supports the housekeepers to sign a petition and deliver it to the Campus Center, Room 212.
p. It will take effort to make Res Life cancel this policy, but we must embrace that challenge or else stand by and watch the school abuse our housekeepers. We can be the ones who begin making this school an environment where everyone is treated fairly, regardless of how many digits are in their paycheck.
p. __Shaun Loria is a junior at the College. His views do not necessarily represent those of The Flat Hat.__