From Allison Cox
I found out about the new housekeeping contract on Tuesday the 4th of November, the same day the housekeeping staff and the university’s faculty were told. Prior to this announcement, I had planned a housekeeping appreciation day based on Shane Claiborne’s similar practice in The Irresistible Revolution. My close involvement with the staff at this time allowed me to become privy to such information.
Two weeks leading up to the event, I went to multiple INST 150 classes to talk about how society dictates how much value a person holds based on their income and job status. I also discussed the issue of a just wage/living wage to the INST150 students and how Eastern should be able to provide such wages to its employees.
I hoped that this appreciation day would get our campus talking. As a Christian institution that has a motto of ‘Faith, Reason, Justice,’ I feel we should be required to provide a just wage. When I heard about the new contract, however, I realized I wanted justice for this staff. I thought of the uncertainty of the staff’s future around Christmas, and it broke my heart.
Because the staff had just found out about the new contact, we were unsure if they would want to come to chapel the next day. Most of the staff, however, did come to chapel. Their appearance at chapel says something about the strength of character of these individuals. They came to chapel because of a love for us and this campus. Eastern is a second home to many of them.
Needless to say, I cried throughout the entirety chapel. Megan Acedo and I handed out the vouchers for the paid day off to each individual housekeeping member. It was so hard. It took much longer than we had planned because some of the housekeeping staff cried with us and we were able to share an embrace. I was frustrated that the students had not been told about the housekeeping staff’s new contract. I wanted the students to know about the contract change because this chapel could have been a great chance to say goodbye to those staff members that would not be returning with the new company.
By not telling students I feel like we were not treating the housekeeping staff, who are vital members of Eastern, like members of this community. I wanted the student body to understand the situation at chapel. As soon as chapel was over, I talked to every administrative person I saw about sending an email to all of Eastern’s students. The issue of transparency became really important to me. The students had the right to know that information. These are people we see everyday, we love everyday, and we now won’t see everyday.
Looking back over what has happened the last couple weeks since that chapel, I feel both encouraged and fearful. I am encouraged by the students and staff who are also dedicated to doing what they can to help the housekeeping staff. I am encouraged by daily conversations with the housekeeping staff where they express that God has his timing and a plan for them. Through this situation I am beginning to understand a little of what it means to try and do justice. If you want to do justice you have to be willing to have your heart broken. I am reminded of a quote from The Irresistible Revolution, “Love is a harsh and dreadful thing to ask of us, but it is the only answer. This love is not sentimental but heart-wrenching, the most difficult and most beautiful.” The work is not done, I want to continue to seek God’s will in this situation because he does have a plan in all of this.