Pretending that a top-tier university with an operating budget of nearly $800 million and a healthy endowment of over $1.6 billion has no other option but to cut the jobs of low-pay janitors just to stay financially afloat is not only wrong, but a contradiction for an institution that prides itself on being “committed to improving the human condition.”
What University President Anthony Monaco calls “a necessary step in responsible stewardship of the university’s resources” is in reality a plan that is bad for the Tufts community. The administration’s proposal will lower the quality of service that janitors provide by putting dozens of long-term employees out of work and forcing the remaining workers to do more with less. No matter how you slice it, in the janitorial sector when you have fewer people to do the work the quality of the service goes down.
The effect on the custodial staff and the ripple effect on their families and communities is not minimal. Tufts claims that the cleaning contractor will find work for janitors who end up losing their jobs because of the university’s decision to make cuts. Unfortunately, as a union representing 145,000 property service workers at colleges and universities, office and biotech buildings and other facilities along the East Coast, including 18,000 here in New England, our experience has shown that contractors are generally not able to find placements for such a large group of displaced workers in a timely manner.
Tufts University prides itself on being a leader among higher education institutions and on preparing students to be citizens of the world. A myopic focus on the bottom line without regard for the effects on the lowest paid workforce and the quality of the services needed to maintain the campus is not consistent with this vision.
Tufts’ janitorial costs are in line with what many of its peers invest in keeping their campuses clean. It’s time for the Tufts administration to reconsider the impact job cuts of this magnitude will have on workers, their families and the Tufts community.