The Tidewater Labor Support Committee held a rally for workers’ rights this past Wednesday at the Crim Dell Meadow. The rally was a response to a move by the Residence Life office to extend Housekeeping Services for residents to include a half day of service on Saturdays. As of the time of the rally, Residence Life had scrapped its plans to implement the new six day service plan in January.
“The main goal was to improve the living environment for residents,” said Deb Boykin, Director of Residence Life at the College. The Residence Life staff was responding to “some students who have complained about cleanliness.”
According to Boykin, The Residence Life Staff, in conjunction with Housekeeping staff supervisors, came up with two plans for adding service on Saturdays. The first called for the staff to alternate weekly, half taking Friday off and working Saturday, the other half continuing with the normal workweek. The other plan called for continuation of the alternation plan, but with half of the staff working a half day on Friday and another half day on Saturday, each four hours long. The two plans were put up for vote to the Housekeeping staff, and with 4 abstentions, the remainder voted unanimously for the second plan.
Yet, the housekeeping staff felt that they had been left out of the process, and the TLSC took up their fight. In a survey the TLSC had access to, 55 out of 60 housekeepers did not agree with the policy to work on Saturdays. Under pressure, Resident Life agreed not to implement the plan.
“Because of the outcry, we have decided to step back and not do this in January,” said Boykin. She also hopes something positive can come out of this situation. “We want students who are living in residence halls to create a dialogue,” to discuss how they view the issue.
Yet, the TLSC saw this victory as only part of a larger campaign they are currently involved in to get further recognition for workers on campus. The group is currently negotiating with the administration in an attempt to see the adoption of what one member called a “right to organize policy.”
Essentially, the policy would call for the administration to recognize the on campus branch of UE 160, the Virginia state employees union. It would also ask that the administration protect them from anti-union policies used by subcontractors for the College. Those in attendance at the rally seemed to see this reaction by the administration as a step in the right direction.
“This is a great day for the labor movement,” said George Waksmunski, a representative from UE 160. “We hope it is going to spark a movement for greater justice for all working people.”