Housekeeper Campaign

Spring 2012

Published: January 2012

Struggles to come this semester!

The NC State Legislature is trying to pass Bill 575 which would strip UNC System SPA employees (including housekeepers and all facilities workers) from the protections and benefits they are afforded under the State Personnel Act. This includes property rights to their job (they will become “at will” employees who can be fired without just cause) and SPA pay raises. The Board of Governors and Tom Ross have come out in support of this bill.

The PRM Consultant report exposed many of the deep rooted problems within the Housekeeping Department, Human Resources, and the University as a whole, but housekeepers are still waiting for change. Members of our campus community still do not know about persistent managerial disrespect, the racial/ethnic/age/language discrimination, the sexual harassment, the low-wages, and the retaliation that housekeepers continue to face today. SAW, with the advice of housekeepers, is writing a Housekeeping Bill of Rights. More on this to come!

Once again, housekeepers are organizing against OS1 – the archaic team cleaning system. This cleaning system reduces housekeepers to a less-than-respected cipher in the system, rather than supporting them as intelligent, hard-working and conscientious employees.  OS1 specifies the exact quantities of supplies and the exact techniques that should be used to do each individual task during a work day—and the exact number of minutes it should take to do each task.  Worker productivity is evaluated based on adherence to the time and supply restrictions that this system specifies.  The problems with team cleaning fall into three broad categories: cleanliness, cost and implementation.  With this letter, we seek to more fully outline the nature of some of these problems. Housekeepers, with the support of SAW, are distributing a petition among the department against OS1.


Fall 2011

Published: January 2012

Petition Delivery and Reassignment of Housekeeping Manager Tonya Sell

A group of first-shift housekeepers, with the supportof SAW, wrote a petition and gathered signatures throughout the summer demanding that supervisor Tonya Sell be reassigned because of her abusive management style. In September, over twenty five housekeepers and over fifty students and community members came together at the steps ofSouth Building and delivered the petition to Chancellor Thorp. Speakers at the rally before the delivery included six housekeepers, the director ofthe Human Rights Center located in Carrboro, a representative from the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, the labor chair ofthe Chapel Hill/Carrboro NAACP, and the co-chair ofStudent Action with Workers. A few weeks later we received news that Tonya Sell was reassigned to a position outside of the Housekeeping Department! This was a major success for housekeepers and students to kick-off our semester.

PRM Report and Firing of Housekeeping Director Bill Burston

Last March, after months of protest and pressure by housekeepers, students, faculty, and community members about unfair and discriminatory practices in the Housekeeping Department, Chancellor Thorp hired PRM Consulting Firm to investigate the climate and culture of the Housekeeping Department.  PRM conducted a five-month investigation, where they interviewed 420 employees of the Housekeeping Department and reviewed Housekeeping’s structure, procedures, and policies.  On September 29, 2011, PRM’s final report was released to the public.

The report identifies major issues within Housekeeping and provides recommendations and action items for UNC to consider to remedy the problems within Housekeeping.  PRM’s findings back up what housekeepers have identified as problems within the Department and been protesting for decades.  PRM found that current practices in the Department have created a culture with worker morale issues, lack of trust, and overall frustration and a majority of housekeepers feel that they are not treated with dignity or respect.  Unfair treatment, retaliation, intimidation, harassment and discrimination by management were also identified as major problems within the Department. Illegal activity was also uncovered,  which includes the forcing of Burmese and Karen housekeepers to pay large sums of money in order to obtain a job in the department.

The day before the report was released, we were informed that the Director of the Housekeeping Department, Bill Burtson was fired.  Housekeepers had filed many complaints against Bill Burston, including complaints of sexual harassment. Housekeepers have organized around his dismissal several times over the years. Finally, their commitment has paid off.

While Student Action with Workers supports manyof the recommendations of the PRM Consulting Firm, they do not address many of the critical problems including problems with the grievance procedure and Human Resources.  The recommendations do not address the larger issueof UNC administration accountability for allowing such practices and treatment to occur for so long.  Additionally, UNC Administration must listen to housekeepers and seriously consider and implement what changes housekeepers would like to see within Housekeeping beyond PRM’s recommendations. In the coming months, it will be necessary for students, faculty, staff, and community members to keep their eyes on UNC to ensure that the Administration make the necessary changes to address these large problems with the UNC Housekeeping Department.

The full report by PRM can be found here:

UNC Housekeeper Sexual Harassment Lawsuits

Over the summer, two UNC housekeepers, Amanda Hulon and Isabel Prudencio Arias, filed sexual harassment lawsuits against the University. They are both represented by Al McSurely, a NAACP civil rights lawyer. Ms. Hulon and Ms. Prudencio Arias had been sexually harassed by their supervisors, Wade Farrington and Bill Burston, and were retaliated against when they filed complaints. In November, Ms. Hulon won a settlement out of court. Ms. Prudencio Arias case continues. If the case goes to court, we hope to see you all there!

Duke Student Action With Workers

Six Latina Duke housekeepers were retaliated against after writing a complaint against Supervisor Linda Sleban. Two women were fired and the others continue to work in fear. These housekeepers are working with a group of Duke students to write a grievance to have Ms. Sleban fired and the unjust terminations revoked. UNC Student Action with Workers has been supporting these efforts and we will be working with the Duke students next semester to form a Duke Student Action with Workers!



Published August 2008

The University is attempting to create a seven-day coverage schedule for the UNC Housekeeping staff, meaning that housekeepers would be cleaning the dorms everyday of the week.

What this means for Housekeepers:

The administration’s current proposal will use the same number of housekeepers who normally clean for five days to clean for seven days. Administration plans to reduce the amount of services and staff during the week to make the weekend work schedule. This means that temporary workers who are trying to get a full time job (and are currently making a full time salary) will be reduced to part-time work and only working two days of the week. It also means that current week day workers will have more work to do on any given day.

What this means for students:

The administration’s proposal will reduce services for students. Without an increase in staffing, the new plan will spread housekeepers thin throughout their five zones. As many as two housekeepers will be removed from dorms that normally use six workers. Hi-rise dorms and many others will have bathrooms cleaned only 3 days a week, instead of the current 5 day schedule.

A one-sided compromise:

Throughout the process of negotiation on this issue, the University has ignored the requests and concerns of housekeepers.

The housekeepers have clearly communicated the importance of:

  • no weekend work for the current staff
  • stable zones (the areas the housekeepers are responsible for cleaning)
  • more staff (keep weekly staffing the same and hire temporary workers to create the weekend schedule)
  • consistent 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. shifts
  • and dignity and respect on the job

But the University is not listening.

These workers deserve to have their voices heard. See our section on collective bargaining to learn more about why housekeepers and other state employees are being silenced on the job.

What is happening now:

Housekeepers voted down the University’s proposal 56-2 at a meeting in September. But Carolyn Elfland, who created the Housing Housekeeping Committee to “address” the concerns of housekeepers, said that their vote doesn’t matter.

Chancellor Thorp met with the five housekeepers who sit on the committee and convinced them to “sell” the proposal to the rest of the housekeepers.  Not only was this decision made undemocratically, but their union representative from UE 150 was not allowed to talk during this meeting.

Currently, the Housing and Housekeeper Committee has been disbanded and housekeepers are no longer granted time off work to hold meetings over the issue — something they had been previously granted.  They have been told by Ms. Elfland and other administrators not to talk to students, UE 150, or the press.

Although housekeepers have continually voiced their disagreement, the 7 day coverage proposal is set to begin a trial period beginning in January.

What can you do?

Housekeepers need your support now more than ever. Check out our Take Action page to see how you can get involved.

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