UNC Solidarity Fast and Vigil with UVA Hunger Strikers for a Living Wage!

On February 18, students at the University of Virginia began a hunger strike as a last-resort to end a 14-year campaign for a living-wage for all UVA workers. More than a thousand employees of the University of Virginia, both direct and contract, do not earn enough money to meet their most basic daily needs.

We may not be as hungry for food, but we’re just as hungry for justice. Join UNC students in showing our solidarity and support for UVA hunger strikers and workers by participating in a 24 hour solidarity fast on Thursday, March 1. We are also fasting in solidarity with all workers who are not paid a living wage, especially workers at our own University.   We will begin fasting on Wednesday, February 29 at 8pm and break our fast on Thursday, March 1 at 8pm.  Please wear orange on Thursday to show that you are participating in the fast!

Join us for a vigil on Thursday at 6pm on the steps of South Building. This is the same time that the UVA Living Wage campaign holds their daily vigils.

For more info about the UVA Living Wage Campaign, check out www.livingwageatuva.org

”Although I am exhausted, hungry, dry-mouthed, and emotionally taxed, I believe it is my responsibility as a member of the University community, and even more as a member of the human race, to stand up and speak for those whose voices have been silenced and whose livelihoods are marginalized by the policies of the current University administration.”- Joseph Williams, UVA student, football player, and hunger striker

March 1st is also a National Day of Action to Defend Education. Actions will be happening all across the country and there will be events taking place in the Pit at UNC on Thursday, so please stop by!


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The OS1 Team Cleaning System – Why Housekeepers Are Organizing Against It

James Holman, UNC housekeeper and Employee Forum delegate, explains the problems with the OS1 Team Cleaning System:
PRM Consulting Group was retained by the University in March 2011 to assess the climate and culture of the UNC Housekeeping Department.  The Facilities Services Department, a division of campus services within the University, manages the housekeeping services along with grounds, building maintenance and other ancillary services.  There are approximately 400 housekeeping employees who have the expectation of being treated respectfully and fairly, of working in an environment free from threats, intimidation and harassment, and of being enabled to do their best job for the University.
Unfortunately, housekeeping employees have a difficult time doing their best work due to the ways that they are forced in to working. The department is operating what is known as a “team cleaning” (or OS1) process that reduces the UNC housekeeping employee to a less-than-respected cipher in the system, rather than supporting them as intelligent, hard-working and conscientious employees.  This team cleaning system 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.  Problems with team cleaning were mentioned in the PRM report.  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.
The requirements of the team cleaning system force housekeepers to move very swiftly through their assigned areas, creating unsafe conditions and often doing the minimum amount of work to make the area seem “clean” on the surface; while eradicating the philosophy of cleaning under OS1.  Many employees who have been forced to use this system feel that it ignores the basic cleaning techniques that would allow them to produce a good quality of work, making areas safe, sanitary and suitable for the faculty and student populations that we serve.
Currently, team cleaning (as it is being implemented) does not allow time for the amount of proper cleaning that would leave unready to be used again. In dormitories buildings, it does not allow time for the cleaning bathrooms and showers efficiently and effectively, cleaning kitchen areas well, cleaning lounges after 9:15 a.m. student’s populations, changing and refreshing cleaning solutions during the work day, traveling from suite to suite, and traveling from floor to floor when, in some cases, no elevators exist.
In academic buildings, it does not allow time for cleaning classroom boards; for the removal of trash; or for moving, wiping and repositioning chairs, tables and desks in rooms that have been left in disarray, which is used for the student populations. These are not the standards that were promised when OS1 was delivered. Under team cleaning these tasks are considered to be infrequently needed and only marginal in importance.  However, they are important according to APPA standards, that are incorporated into OS1 standards and failure to do them results in work that is below the standards required under green cleaning.
The most critical areas where team cleaning is affecting the quality of work are in housing, where employees work from 7:00 a.m. to 9:15 a.m. in public areas (for instance, lounges and laundry rooms) and from 9:15 a.m. until 3:45 p.m. in assigned area blocks (for instance, bathrooms).  They are given only short periods of 3 minutes for certain cleaning procedures.
Some areas in housing are also cleaned once a week with acid-based chemicals that are unsafe to the students and the employees—chemicals that are then disposed of through our drains and into the city sewer system.
Despite the fact that team cleaning was promoted, when it was being introduced, as a cost-neutral process, it appears that this has not in fact happened.  Team cleaning requires that the University buy all of its cleaning supplies (cleaners and equipment) from the one vendor who sells the “team cleaning” brand.  Employees are hearing that the costs of the system are exceeding what the University used to pay for the supplies and equipment to do the same tasks.  The bottom line is that the University has inherited a cleaning process that was never bided upon as State policies has required.
The cost of the team cleaning system combined with the ever-growing number of layoffs of the past several years help to explain the third serious defect of the system: its implementation.  Team cleaning is built on the premise that there is a specified number of employees who work together in an area, with each one assigned to do very specific, limited tasks, using very specific techniques and supplies/equipment, within precisely calculated lengths of time for each task—over and over and over again all day.  When team cleaning was being originally promoted just a few short years ago, housekeeping employees and the Employee Forum were repeatedly assured that in areas where the system was implemented, there would always be a full team of workers.  Otherwise, of course, the system would not work.
Despite these reassurances, the current administrators of OS1 have streamed lined the full effects of the teams. The OS1 administrators of housekeeping have left the operation in areas where team cleaning is used in stress and hardship. To complicate matters more, the current OS1 administrators are preselecting employees to be Managers and Crew Leaders.
We are writing to request that in the process of implementing recommendations in the PRM report, there will be an intervention to discourage all of the restrictive cleaning processes mentioned above.  These processes are not working!
  1. They disadvantage employees who really do want to do their best work in the areas they serve.
  2. They reduce morale by setting up an environment where employees are micro-managed to the point that they become mere ciphers in a system—all in the name of “efficiency.”
  3. They are more costly than what they were supposed to be.
  4. And most importantly, they disallow safe, sanitary conditions.  As time goes on, these conditions may cause student discomfort and dissatisfaction, especially in view of the fact that their fees, which are increasing, are supposed to help cover these services.
Ultimately, the team cleaning process has not allowed the University to be a good steward of the tax payer’s dollars.  We ask that the team cleaning process be terminated.


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Meet Workers Who Sew UNC Apparel!

sponsored by USAS & Student Action with Workers
Tuesday, September 20th, 12:30pm
Hanes Room 107

Join workers Maritza Vargas and Elba Nurys from Alta Gracia, the only living-wage, union-made apparel factory in the collegiate market, as they share their inspiring history of collaboration with students and how their community, Villa Altagracia, is being transformed by living wages. Now, for the first time, a living-wage of more than three-and-a-half-times the Dominican minimum wage is allowing them to access health care, quality food and housing, and invest in education for themselves and their family. They’re represented by a union, which means a voice in the workplace. This New York Times article is a great introduction to the project, and this video gives a fun overview of the history of the factory.


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Housekeepers Petition Chancellor Thorp for Changes Within the Department

UNC housekeepers want manager reassigned
 By Gregory Childress
gchildress@heraldsun.com; 419-6645

CHAPEL HILL – UNC housekeepers want Chancellor Holden Thorp to reassign a top manager in Housekeeping Services whom they claim engages in harassing and intimidating behavior.

The housekeepers, students and other supporters, including labor unions and the Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP, have planned a rally today at noon in front of the South Building to demand that Tonya Sell, assistant director of Housekeeping Services, be reassigned.

Sell, who did a 15-year stretch in the Navy, has been a source of much consternation among housekeepers since she instituted a “no sit-down” policy last fall that forbids housekeepers from taking even a short break without first getting it approved by a supervisor.

Housekeepers have also complained that Sell, who supervises about 100 workers, lacks professionalism, threatens employees and engages in verbal abuse.

“She doesn’t treat us with respect,” said longtime UNC housekeeper Odessa Davis. “That’s something that I really, really want is for her to treat us like we’re somebody and she doesn’t do that.”

Still, Davis said she doesn’t want to see Sell fired, just moved from Housing Services.

“I think she should be reassigned,” Davis said. “I don’t like to see people out of work, but she needs to be reassigned somewhere else other than housekeeping.”

Sell, who also has been accused of forging an employee’s signature, did not return calls to The Chapel Hill Herald by its deadline Thursday.

The forgery allegedly occurred when Sell dated and signed a zone manager’s name on his performance review.

“I have a written statement from him,” said James Holman, a housekeeper and chairman of the Employee Forum’s policy and practice committee. “This is a bad example for her to set for her managers and I’m pretty sure it’s illegal.”

UNC spokesman Mike McFarland said in an email message that the university is restricted from discussing job performance issues involving a specific staff member under the state Public Records Act and state Personnel Act.

Brenda Malone, the university’s vice chancellor for human resources, confirmed McFarland’s statement, but added that the university is not indifferent.

“The allegations noted in this petition are indeed serious, and the University takes these issues extremely seriously,” Malone said in an emailed statement.

Laurel Ashton, leader of Student Action With Workers, said the fact that Sell remained in a supervisory role in the wake of such serious allegations is cause for great concern about the leadership at the university.

“Tonya Sell is a major problem in the department, but the real problem is an administration that allows her to continue to do illegal things,” Ashton said.

In response to housekeepers’ complaints, the university contracted with PRM Consulting Group to conduct an assessment of the climate and culture of Housekeeping Services and to provide alternative solutions and approaches to address any concerns found.

The firm began conducting individual interviews with employees, managers and others in April.

McFarland said PRM has not finalized its report and there is no timetable for addressing recommendations the firm might bring forth.

Malone said PRM’s report will be released later this month “and the University will act swiftly on the recommendations presented there.”

Ashton said the housekeepers, and those who support them, are not convinced the report will be a magic bullet to cure ills in Housekeeping Services.

She also said housekeepers should not have to wait an extended period for their concerns to be addressed.

“These issues are happening now, and they need to be dealt with now,” Ashton said. “We’re not putting much hope in PRM.”

Read more: The Herald-Sun – UNC housekeepers want manager reassigned

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Sexual Harassment in UNC Housekeeping!

UNC Housekeeper Files Sexual Harassment Suit

In the three months she worked under the ever-watchful eye of her supervisor, Wade Farrington, UNC housekeeper Amanda Hulon became an expert at taking out the garbage—very delicately.

“[Farrington] would be standing right directly behind me while I’m bending over picking up trash,” she recalls, the tip of her cigarette glowing orange in her Carrboro apartment. “He would be, ‘Mmm, mmm, mmm, look at that ass.’ Or he would call me into his office and constantly be rubbing his crotch while he’s talking.”

Court documents corroborate her allegations. Hulon, represented by Chapel Hill civil rights attorney Al McSurely, has filed a complaint with the North Carolina Office of Administrative Hearings. The case is scheduled to be heard Aug. 29.

UNC spokesman Mike McFarland said he could not comment on the case. Farrington, Housekeeping Director Bill Burston and Business Officer Van Dobson did not respond to calls for comment.

McFarland said that earlier this week, UNC named Lea Holt interim director of housekeeping to replace Burston, who earned about $38,000 a year in that position. McFarland did not say if, or to what post, Burston had been reassigned. Holt had been director of University Mail Services.

Hulon says the abuse began on her fourth day at work. Even before then, the complaint states, Farrington had offered to lend Hulon money several times, including on the day of her job interview. He knew her temporary job had ended and that she had not been permanently employed for almost four months.

During her first three days at work, she declined Farrington’s loan, even though she was struggling to pay bills. On the fourth day, she accepted $150 from Farrington and promised to repay it from her first paycheck.

The next day, Sept. 11, 2008, Farrington allegedly called Hulon to his office and told her that his favor deserved one in return.

“Well, first of all, if you want to work for me, you are going to have to learn how to shut your mouth and not tell anyone what goes on between you and I,” the complaint states Farrington said. “If you fuck me, I can make your job very comfortable. If not, I will make your job very difficult.”

The lawsuit describes Hulon’s predicament as a “triple-bind”: “damned if she did, damned if she didn’t, and damned if she told anyone about it.”

Hulon says her life became hellacious. Over the next three months, Farrington intentionally bumped into her, grabbed her inappropriately and called her into his office and touched himself in front of her, the complaint states.

Finally, she was transferred to a new zone outside of Farrington’s reach, but the problems worsened, she says.

The new supervisor, Gwen Stanley, is a friend of Farrington, the complaint states, and “initiated a retaliatory campaign against Ms. Hulon with the obvious purpose to make the workplace intolerable and to constructively discharge her.”

Hulon received warnings for being out sick, being late, leaving early and other attendance concerns, the complaint states. Hulon says she had never received a write-up before then. Now she had 15 counselings—warnings of unsatisfactory performance—a write-up and a one-week suspension without pay, which she later appealed and was overturned.

“After an extensive review of the case the University has determined that you received disciplinary actions for departmental policy violations, while others in the department who engaged in the same or similar conduct did not receive the same level of discipline,” UNC Equal Opportunity/ ADA Officer Ann Penn wrote to Hulon in November.

“However there is not conclusive evidence to support the allegation that the inconsistent application of disciplinary action was in retaliation for your earlier sexual harassment complaint.”

Penn went on to write that she recommended Hulon be transferred to a new zone away from Stanley and to have her suspension rescinded.

But problems lie not only with the facilities services administration but also with a grievance procedure that the housekeepers can’t trust, says Jonathan Stephenson, chairman of the State Employees Association of North Carolina (SEANC 25) and a UNC School of Medicine program assistant.

“A lot of employees, I get calls they are in fear of their jobs, they are in fear of their safety,” he says. “This is not one instance that we are jumping, no, it’s a collective. My phone rings off the hook whether it’s my cellphone, my office phone or my home phone.”

Stephenson says the “culture of sexual harassment in housekeeping” is well known, even at the uppermost reaches of the university administration.

UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp responded to organized protests about harassment, discrimination and unfair working conditions by allocating $104,000 to hire PRM Consulting Group, a human resources firm from Washington, D.C.

“This had been going on for at least 50 years that I know of, and we decided to try something that hasn’t been tried for 50 years to see if we can pull us out of this continuous cycle of conflict,” Thorp told the UNC-CH Employee Forum, a group of staff elected by peers to advocate for better working conditions, in December, according to the University Gazette.

PRM Consulting has been on campus since April and plans to spend six months interviewing employees and observing the workplace before issuing a final report.

Hulon says she tried to resolve her workplace issues by following UNC’s grievance process, but the system failed her, the complaint states.

She met with Wayne Blair, UNC’s ombudsman, six days after Farrington’s demand for sex. However, under UNC policy, that meeting doesn’t constitute a formal notice of a grievance that would protect Hulon from retaliation.

Hulon says she then tried talking to Dobson, who referred her to Burston, the director of housekeeping, the complaint states. Burston assured her that he would handle it.

Burston transferred Hulon to Stanley’s zone. But in violation of the grievance policy, he did not provide her with any information on the appeals process or written statements of the remedies he would carry out, the complaint states.

Stephenson says efforts to improve the working conditions are being scuppered because many housekeepers don’t feel comfortable talking about their supervisors and fear retaliation.

“There’s a lot of fear, a lot of anger,” Stephenson says. “We feel that this is a dangerous situation that could spiral out of control, and that’s why we are going to bring it to chancellor’s attention.”

But Hulon won’t be intimidated or silenced, she says.

“My main goal is to hopefully get everyone in housekeeping, especially the Burmese and Karen community, to see that I’m not scared, I’m talking,” she says. “I’m putting myself out there; my name, everything out there and telling what happened to me. They don’t have to be scared either. I’m really hoping that’s what comes of it, I really do.”

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UNC Workers Sit Out!

All-Day Sit-Out in Support of Campus Workers! Rally at Noon!
This Thursday April 7, 2011
9am: Join workers for an all-day sit-out in front of South Building!
12 noon: Rally of student’s, workers, and community
Join campus workers from 9am-5pm on Thursday April 7th on the steps of South Building to protest attacks on workers rights! There will be food, speakers, conversation, performances and community.

It’s important to try to be there all day, or as much of the day as you can. Skip class, rearrange appointments, ask off from professors. But, if you can only make part of the day, the most important part will be from 12 noon to 1pm, when workers, students, and com will rally and speak out to the media.

Facilities workers from around campus have decided to take vacation time and sit on the steps of South Building next Thursday to protest unfair schedule changes by management. They and other workers are courageously standing up for their rights and for a voice on the job in this time of budget cuts, tuition hikes, and other attacks on workers and students.

It’s essential that we as students support them and sit-out with them! With the climate of fear and intimidation that workers face constantly from management, it’s a risk to speak out as a worker on this campus, let alone to protest publicly. These unfair schedule changes that workers are facing are just another example of the administration trying to balance the budget on the backs of workers and students, and we’ve all got to unite to fight these attacks. As workers, they face retaliation, increased health care costs, unfair schedule changes, intimidation, and decreased benefits.

We gotta work together to fight for justice on the job and dignity in the workplace for campus workers!

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An Easy Way to Take Action in Support of the Sanitation 2

Call Chapel Hill mayor Mark Kleinschmidt within the next few days and demand that the town of Chapel Hill stop retaliation for grievances and union organizing and rehire the Sanitation 2!

919 968 2743

Every little bit helps.

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