GSC hosts town hall with workers

May 5, 2016

Leo's dining hall. The Voice.

The Georgetown Solidarity Committee (GSC) hosted a town hall meeting on April 30 to set its agenda for the future and facilitate conversation among University-employed workers. Student members of GSC, facility workers at Georgetown University, and administrators attended the meeting. “We wanted to have a more informal conversation between [the attendees], something that was really positive in nature but also highlighting the fact that problems still exist,” said Esmeralda Huerta (SFS ‘17), president of GSC.

The town hall meeting proceeded as a discussion among employees and students. The primary issue presented by Georgetown employees was a perceived negative and hostile work environment. Later in the town hall, Georgetown employees said that misuse of the worker evaluation process and withholding of overtime shifts are used to dissuade workers from making official complaints, which contributes to the negative atmosphere.

GSC member Sophie Bauerschmidt Sweeney (COL ‘17) agreed with the sentiments expressed by Georgetown employees. “One of the hardest things we’ve had to deal with… is a negative and disrespectful culture, which is something that’s hard to make concrete demands around,” she said. She also said that many workers feel that working conditions have deteriorated since changes were made to the facilities’ managerial staff two years ago.

“Over and over throughout both of these semesters we’ve heard stories of management, particularly new management, using racial tensions among workers to create divides, being clearly discriminatory towards workers to ensure that some folks don’t get overtime, and creating a culture where workers don’t even feel like them speaking out will cause any change, and in fact would cause a negative reaction towards them,” Huerta said.

Clarence Wesley, a facilities worker at Georgetown, identified the managerial staff as the cause of what he perceived to be a toxic environment for the workers. “I look at it as, management continuing to do the intimidation causes a hostile work environment.”

Huerta added that working conditions at Georgetown are especially concerning in light of the University’s Jesuit affiliation and character. “We work for a Jesuit institution, an institution that makes really bold claims about the way we should treat one another, but you don’t see that playing out in real life. And that’s been really disheartening to see, and really disheartening conditions to work under.” Georgetown’s employees are protected by the University’s Just Employment Policy. The policy is meant to guarantee fair and competitive compensation packages for full-time employees, though GSC criticized the policy for lack of enforcement during their Work with Dignity campaign in March.  

Bauerschmidt recognized the challenges the GSC faces going forward. “[The negative atmosphere among workers] is something we’ve been struggling with in terms of how to address it, but I think that part of it is making people more aware that these problems are there in a way that they can’t just brush off or deny.”

Wesley added, however, that meetings such as this one helped improve the working environment by giving workers the opportunity to voice their concerns. “It’s good that the workers came, and speak out, and feel comfortable speaking out,” he said.

“When workers talk among each other it doesn’t get any further, but when the workers are able to express outside of the work environment to management and without being intimidated, that’s better. And I look at it like that’s what went on today.”

Jake Maher
Jake Maher is the former executive news editor and editor-in-chief of The Georgetown Voice.

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