Howard University Maintenance Workers Tell School Leaders to Stop Plans to Outsource Their Jobs
Workers Who’ve Been on the Job for Decades Could Lose Wages and Benefits
Washington, D.C.—Howard University maintenance workers rallied in front of Administration offices today with students and DC Council candidate, Brianne Nadeau, urging school leaders to stop plans to outsource facilities management jobs. Outsourcing could reduce wages and benefits for workers who’ve been employed by Howard for as long as 40 years and won’t solve all of the school’s budgetary challenges.
“Jobs like these are hard to come by for too many communities, we must protect them for the good of our families and our economy,” said Nadeau whose District, if elected, would include the University. “I join you today in making sure that Howard protects the standards that members of the Howard community deserve.”
One of the workers at risk is Hattie Howard, a 30-year Howard employee who recalls looking after President Dr. Wayne Frederick when he was a medical school student. In addition to cleaning his dormitory, she would open up an office for Frederick to rest inside after he was up all night studying. Referring to the current crisis, Hattie says it’s not about the money.
“We do it because we love Howard University and we love the students,” said Hattie Howard. “They come to us with no lunch money and even take some of them home for the holidays. A lot of parents thank me for watching over their kids.”
Outsourcing can lead to problems that are difficult to reverse. Contractors can cut corners on cleaning standards, underbid their first contract and hike up the price later, or cut and run when they don’t make enough profit. If the University loses the capacity to do facilities work in house, it will be in a weaker position to hold contractors accountable for the cost and quality of their work.
Maryland Congressman and Howard University alum, Gregory Meeks also echoed the workers concerns in a letter to Frederick. “Howard’s facilities management workers are an integral part of the Howard community and it isn’t right for the university to potentially threaten their wages and benefits by outsourcing their work. As a Howard graduate, I urge President Frederick and the Board of Trustees not to outsource the University’s facilities management jobs.”
As direct employees of the University, workers receive family-sustaining wages and benefits including health insurance, pensions, and tuition remission for themselves and their children. Many of the 200 workers, who have even sent their own children to the University include cleaners, carpenters, painters, electricians and plumbers who maintain residence halls, academic and administrative buildings, as well as other on and off campus buildings.
With more than 145,000 members in 11 states, including 17,000 in the D.C. Metropolitan Area, 32BJ SEIU is the largest property service workers union in the country.