Living wage debate begins at Le Moyne
December 6, 2012
The janitorial staff that cleans all of the Le Moyne Campus facilities are not paid the standard living wage in Syracuse. Despite the city of Syracuse’s living wage being $14.40 per hour without health care and $12.19 with the employer providing health care, the workers are paid $10.70 per hour, work 25 hours a week and three out of four workers do not receive health care.
All of the workers are under contract with the subcontractor, Eagle Janitorial Services. The workers’ union SEIU (Service Employees International Union) Local 200United held a “speak out” last Tuesday, Nov. 27 at 6 p.m. in the Soule Branch Library, where Le Moyne students and faculty were welcome to discuss this issue. During this discussion, the workers told their personal story and struggles they have faced because of their current wages they receive from Eagle Janitorial Service. These struggles included having to work two or three jobs to support their families, being unable to afford health care, not being able to save money for emergencies and more.
Both students and faculty attended this event to show their support. In addition to the workers telling their stories, Scott Phillipson, the executive director of the union and Le Moyne alumni of 1998, explained their main goal for the event and as a union.
“We were preparing contract negotiations with Eagle Janitorial Services, through that process we typically talk to our members, we survey them and find out what they need,” Phillips said. “We had been having a conversation with our members about how they were struggling, and that it was really time to have a conversation that went beyond the bargaining table, but on campus about what was going on. I care about Le Moyne and this has probably, in my opinion, maybe something that was going on in the shadows, and it was time to show the campus community how this employer on their campus was treating folks and that just started with the idea of dignity and respect.”
SEIU has been negotiating about wages and healthcare with Eagle Janitorial Services and deems their offer unreasonable and will continue to negotiate with them. However, SEIU expects Le Moyne to urge Eagle Janitorial Services, perhaps through a policy, to pay these workers an actual wage they can survive on or find a subcontractor that will.
In addition to SEIU expectations, some students who attended the “speak out” believe Le Moyne would definitely be open to make some changes to protect the worker’s rights and ensure they get the wages they deserve.
“I heard these students and I’m passionate about their hopes that they can engage Le Moyne as a community to say this needs to change,” Phillips said. “I don’t like cleaning the bathroom in my own home, but you have folks that have to clean 18 bathrooms. It’s a thankless job, and all we’re saying is that, those people should make a living wage and be able to feed their family and have a little money to put some shoes on their children’s feet.”