On Sept. 8, members of the Georgetown Solidarity Committee (GSC) were denied access to observe the negotiations between the University and SEIU Local 1199, a union that represents campus maintenance and facilities workers. No more than three GSC members at a time tried to attend the meeting throughout the day, according to Vincent DeLaurentis (SFS ‘17).
The negotiations broke down after university representatives told DeLaurentis, who attempted to observe the meeting, that the University and the union had reached an agreement that no students would be present in the negotiations.
According to DeLaurentis, the union and the workers denied this claim, and they said that if the University did not want students to be present, they would have to ask the students to leave. The union did not have a stake in whether students were present, DeLaurentis said, but workers had specifically requested that students attend after no agreement was reached over the summer.
“The workers were sick of seeing these negotiations constantly extend the contract without reaching any type of new ground,” DeLaurentis said. “They wanted the students to witness for themselves how obstinate the University was being in their dealings with workers and with the union.”
University spokesperson Rachel Pugh said that the University and the union have agreed to use a neutral mediator in the negotiation process at the request of the union, and the mediator will not participate if students or a third party are present.
According to a GSC Facebook post, students did not request to participate, only observe the meetings.
“When pressed as to why students should not be present, management could not provide a concrete answer or a legal reason for students not be sitting silently observing the process,” the post reads.
Negotiations with the facilities and maintenance staff come amid concerns about the staff size in the department, according to DeLaurentis. He claimed the number of managers has increased in recent years while the number of workers has stayed the same, however the University did not provide comment on how these numbers have changed.
Additionally, despite new buildings on campus, no new staff has been hired to cover these buildings, DeLaurentis said.
“Workers are having to do a lot more work than they typically have to do or should be able to do,” he said. “Workers have been asked to do jobs that require two to three people on their own, and there have been really clear injuries.”
University Media Relations Manager Ryan King said that the University trains employees on reporting workplace injuries with one of these training sessions as recent as last spring.
Citing recent increases in tuition and and laundry prices without student consultation, DeLaurentis said being denied access to the negotiations provides another example of a lack of transparency from the University.
“The University was kind of asking us to trust them without having done anything to earn our trust,” he said.
Pugh said that negotiations are to continue next week.