Facilities workers ask Georgetown for more transparent communication

November 3, 2021

Illustration by Deborah Han

While Georgetown relies on its many facilities workers to have a clean and functioning campus, some are concerned about new changes in Georgetown’s policies and lack of communication from their management team. The Voice spoke with several facilities workers, who all asked to remain anonymous, about changes in Georgetown’s management style and how it has affected their jobs.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the university had multiple shifts available for facilities workers to take, including overnight shifts. Since the onset of the pandemic, however, Georgetown has used outside contractors to fill many of the overnight shifts.

Georgetown directly hires its facilities workers, though the university also has a custodial contract with Aramark, which also manages the dining hall staff. While Georgetown uses custodians hired by Aramark to supplement the work of its facilities team, employees said the use of contractors makes it harder for them to work full hours and introduces fears that their jobs will be replaced.

“We’re slowly going backwards,” one worker said. “These people are moving in little by little, and our job is in jeopardy right now.”

Additionally, he said, the university has failed to replace many people who retired or resigned during the pandemic, leading to an increased workload for the current facilities workers.

The previous management team regularly reached out to the facilities workers to inform them of new changes in policy. The last vice president for planning and facilities management, Ben Kuo, stepped down last year, and the workers say his replacement, Lori Baldwin, has not been as transparent.

The workers currently do not know what the university’s plans are, but they expressed worry that their jobs would be replaced partially or entirely by Aramark’s custodians. They asked for more communication with the facilities team leaders so they could better understand what changes Georgetown plans to make.

“We’re not afraid of changes, but it’s the way we’re hearing them,” one worker said. “We can’t go to management because they haven’t even come to us to give us any type of information or update to what’s going on. We’re just hearing things that are going on.”

“It looks like management is setting us up to fail,” another added. “They’re not even telling us what’s going on, so it’s a big concern.”

The facilities workers are represented by a union, Service Employees International Union Local 1199 (1199SEIU), but they say they have been unable to talk to a representative about the problems they are facing. “We used to have a meeting every month, and for the past two years, we haven’t had any. We haven’t seen the organizer,” one of the facilities workers said.

“We have one delegate that we know about in the daytime [shift], but when I ask him questions, he barely can answer your questions because he doesn’t know,” he added.

The university disputed allegations it does not communicate effectively with its facilities workers. “We are deeply grateful for the many contributions of front-line Facilities Management workers who helped keep out campuses running through the pandemic and enabled the return of our community to campus this fall,” a university spokesperson wrote in an email to the Voice. “We meet regularly with these employees and their union representatives to discuss issues of interest and provide updates about policies and protocols on campus.”

The spokesperson also added that the university does not have plans to lay off any of its facilities workers.

Nonetheless, the workers still hope to increase dialogue with the facilities managers. “We just want to be treated like part of the university,” one said. “We just want to feel like we’re a part of this, and even appreciated, because it comes to a point where you’ve sold so much of your life into this place, but it seems like nobody cares.”

Ethan Greer
Ethan is an assistant news editor for the Voice and a sophomore in the College. In his free time he enjoys eating copious amounts of Chipotle.

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