Dozens of Tufts students, janitors and union representatives marched to Ballou Hall yesterday afternoon to protest the hiring practices of UGL Unicco, Tufts’ new campus−cleaning contractor.
The march began in front of Tilton Hall, where representatives of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and Jumbo Janitor Alliance (JJA) denounced Tufts’ new janitorial service provider’s failure to fill 62 vacant janitorial positions, despite the abundance of part−time workers willing to take on full−time positions.
The controversy began over the summer when Tufts switched its janitorial services contractor from American Building Maintenance Industries to UGL Unicco. Sixty−two janitorial positions were vacated in the wake of the move but have yet to be filled, according to Matt Gulish, deputy director of Higher Education for SEIU, the union that represents Tufts’ janitors and maintenance workers.
“There are a lot of part−time workers and janitors here at Tufts that would love to be full−time and really need the hours in order to get healthcare and benefits,” Jumbo Janitor Alliance Treasurer Daniel Rosebrock, a junior, added.
The absence of 62 workers on campus negatively affects the remaining workers’ ability to do their jobs, Rosebrock noted.
“There’s no one working those hours, so dorms are getting understaffed,” he said.
Paula Castillo, a janitor who has worked at the university for 15 years and serves as an elected representative of Tufts janitors to SEIU, agreed.
“Now we can’t keep the place clean the way it was [before],” she told the Daily through a translator. “There are fewer workers, [but] we have more work.”
“Now I clean West Hall and Bendetson, and I only have seven−and−a−half hours,” she added.
During the march, which was organized by both SEIU representatives and the JJA, the crowd of approximately 60 traveled from Tilton Hall to Ballou, chanting in both Spanish and English slogans such as “Tufts escucha! Estamos en la lucha,” and “No pare, sigue! Sigue!” [“Tufts, listen! We are in the fight! … Don’t stop; keep going! Keep going!”]
After several minutes of chanting in front of Ballou, University President Anthony Monaco came outside to greet the cheering crowd.
He thanked those present for bringing the problem to his attention and promised future action.
“I was not aware that we had an issue,” he said. “I am very happy to look into what the issue is for you to see if we can come to some resolution.”
He encouraged the protesters to contact Executive Vice President Patricia Campbell with additional questions.
In response to Monaco’s address, JJA co−Chair Liam Walsh−Mellett, a sophomore, expressed his disappointment that Tufts did not ensure that the contractor followed up on previous promises to retain all current Tufts janitors.
“Last year we talked to Patricia Campbell, and Patricia Campbell and [Vice President for Operations] Dick Reynolds assured us that in the change of contractors that no conditions would change … And now that’s not the case,” Walsh−Mellett said to the crowd.
“We feel a little bit betrayed,” he added.
The president again assured the group that he would examine the matter, before he departed amid cries of “Si se puede!”
Union representatives are expected to meet with UGL Unicco today to discuss the school’s contract, according to Rosebrock. The march organizers hoped that yesterday’s display of solidarity would pressure the contractor to fill the 62 vacant positions, Rosebrock added.
“We’re trying to put a little bit of pressure onto the contractor, just to tell them what they did was wrong,” he said. “We just want to get as much student support to show that what the contractor did wasn’t right.”
The start of a new Tufts presidency was also a motivation for the rally, according to Gulish.
“We know there’s a new president that may not be aware of the situation, and because we’re concerned that the contractor will keep on delaying and delaying and delaying and not allow people to move from part−time to full−time,” he told the Daily.
“We thought that now was a good time to come educate the president and make sure that the contractor knows how deeply we care about this,” he added.
Castillo expressed her hope that future events will see more involved students.
“We hope that the students support us,” she said. “I want to thank all the students for fighting along with us.”
“Only workers can’t [make change]. But if we get support from the students, I think we can do it. I think all together, we can,” she continued.