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Housekeeping Staff Appreciation Is Ongoing

The Housekeeping Staff was honored during appreciation chapel this fall.Edward Marium | The Waltonian

The Housekeeping Staff was honored during appreciation chapel this fall.

Over the past few weeks the Eastern University community has been much more involved in the lives of our housekeeping staff than normal. This has been due to the change in vendor that Eastern will use for their housekeeping staff. Some students are upset with the way that the whole situation came about, and would like answers. That is why students have been sitting outside of the dining commons for days on end, asking people to sign the three petitions having to do with the housekeeping staff. These three petitions regard paying the housekeeping staff a living wage, transparency between students and administration about decisions like this and a petition that went to the new company saying that we as the students think that they should try to hire as many of the current housekeeping staff as possible.

The organizational leader of these events, Allison Cox, read Shane Claiborne’s book The Irresistible Revolution over this summer and was intrigued when it was mentioned that the YACHT club had put together an Arthur Jackson(the housekeeping staff) Appreciation day. During their event the students had taken the jobs of the housekeeping staff in order to give them a paid day off. She loved this idea, so with the help of Megan Acedo, she has been working this semester to make this happen. While many people on campus do appreciate the housekeeping staff, she wanted to give the whole campus a chance to really consider all the work that they do for us day in and day out.

At chapel on Nov. 5, the housekeeping staff was recognized for their service and given vouchers for a paid day-off of their choosing. This day was filled with mixed emotions because the housekeeping staff recently found out that Eastern has terminated the contract with the current housekeeping services, Arthur Jackson Company, after 20 years of working together. This means that many of the housekeeping staff will be out of a job come mid-December: a difficult time for anyone to lose their job. There is a silver lining to this situation; the housekeeping staff had an opportunity to reapply through this new company and keep their jobs here at Eastern. Many of the staff members have been working at Eastern for a number of years and feel as though it is their second home, as many of us do.

Jose Rivera is the director of environmental services here at Eastern, and has been working in the housekeeping business for over 40 years. He has been at Eastern for 15 of those years, and when he was offered a promotion with Arthur Jackson, he turned it down in order to stay at Eastern, the community he loved so much. Rivera is optimistic about the change in company and hopes that many of his staff are able to stay at Eastern. While this change came at an unfortunate time, there is hope that things will improve for the housekeeping staff.

Cox has been talking to faculty members in different departments at Eastern and has found that many have this same issue on their hearts. “I really want this event not to be a one and done activity, but for it to get us thinking about the bigger issues related to justice when it comes to how the housekeeping staff is paid and their working environment,” Cox said. The day was a great success if based on numbers alone: over 200 students signed up to vacuum a residence hall, sweep a stairwell or empty the trash in a classroom. By presenting this day of appreciation, Cox hopes to help students understand that justice is the essence of Eastern, and how important it is that we return to that.

There has been much more in the works for the housekeeping staff. There have been three different petitions regarding the housekeeping issues happening on campus. One petition that was given to GCA services, the new company hired by Eastern, had to do with the current housekeeping staff being able to continue to work at Eastern. By signing the petition, signees voiced that the current staff members did a good job and therefore should be rehired here at Eastern. Over 330 students signed this petition when it was given to GCA services. Some bilingual Eastern students were also able to translate for the housekeeping staff at their interviews.

In honor of appreciating those individuals who labor tirelessly on a daily basis, many students here at Eastern University have been actively working to continuously find new ways to voice the university’s appreciation. If you have any ideas on how you would like to continue to find ways to appreciate the housekeeping staff, please contact Allison Cox at acox1@eastern.edu.

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