As the University grapples with the need to reduce its budget deficit, it must also consider issues of reasonableness, fairness and even justice. One of the options being considered for debt reduction that in particular raises concerns about fairness is the recent request for bids to reduce the cost of housekeeping services.
Wittenberg University has solicited bids to cut the cost of housekeeping services below the amounts paid to the current contractor, ABM. The implications for the housekeeping staff are profound. If Wittenberg decides to go with a low-bidding contractor, the new company likely would provide starting pay of between $8.00 and $10.00 an hour – and most likely with little or no benefits. And there is no guarantee a new company even would hire the existing workers, some of whom have served Wittenberg for decades.
Hoping to keep their jobs and at least some basic benefits, the housekeeping employees and their union, the United Food and Commercial Workers, cooperated with ABM to develop a package of further concessions which allowed that company to come back with a competitive bid – $200,000 less than its original bid. If Wittenberg accepts ABM’s proposal – even though it may not be the very lowest bid the University has received – the longtime members of our housekeeping staff at least would keep their jobs and their health insurance coverage, which is provided through a UFCW benefit plan. In order to do this, the workers have agreed not only to forgo a promised wage increase but to take an actual pay cut, to reduce their paid sick days by half, to give up a holiday and to eliminate much of their vacation time. They have made these concessions because they are loyal to Wittenberg, because they simply cannot live on $8.00 to $10.00 an hour and because they likely will lose their health care coverage if ADM is no longer their employer.
It is unfair that this group of people at Wittenberg, who are mainly women and people of color and who already are low-wage workers, should once again have to take such cuts. However, it would be even more profoundly unjust for the University essentially to abandon them by contracting with a company whose bid is so low that many will become unemployed, uninsured and even impoverished. Such a decision would be unethical and out of line with the University mission and would further undermine Wittenberg’s public stature.
Additionally, the amount to be saved by trying to cut the housekeeping costs below even ABM’s new, concessionary bid would have little effect on the University’s bottom line and does not justify the harm it would do. Many of the faculty and staff support these workers and believe they deserve to remain at this University.
Please consider this matter seriously and compassionately by signing this petition urging the University to accept the current ABM bid so that our long-time housekeepers can be retained.
Wittenberg University Sociology Club started this petition with a single signature, and now has 389 supporters. Start a petition today to change something you care about.