GMU professors express support for janitors alleging poor working conditions, retaliation

Professors at George Mason University in Virginia are expressing support and solidarity with the custodial workers, who say that they were exposed to poor working conditions and have faced retribution for trying to organize.

More than 220 people have signed a resolution by GMU’s chapter of the American Association of University Professors supporting the efforts of the workers to improve their working conditions.

The resolution also called on the university to adopt a responsible contractor policy and to ensure that workers have appropriate and sufficient personal protective equipment to carry out their jobs.

Service Employees International Union filed a complaint last August on behalf of the janitors at the school, alleging that they have been targeted with “surveillance and interrogations about potential union activity by their employer, H&E Cleaning in Manassas,” The Associated Press reported.

The union settled the claim in January, as well as another complaint filed in November alleging “intimidation and harassment, intimidating workers, sabotaging work areas, making false accusations of theft, physically shoving a worker, and slow-walking a worker’s paycheck,” Bloomberg Law reported.

The GMU-AAUP resolution noted that the university has agreements with contractors, which assign their workers and those of their subcontractors to work on campus.

University President Gregory Washington said in a statement last month that GMU has conducted an initial review of the complaints against contractor L.T. Services and its subcontractors, regarding how employees and contractor staff were being treated. He called the accusations “troubling.”

GMU-AAUP said that the workers are “paid less than $15 per hour, have no or few benefits, and are disproportionately people of color and immigrant.”

“These workers are essential, valued, and co-equal members of the GMU community,” the resolution said.

The Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, an organization that represents trade unionists, also supported the efforts of the custodial workers, saying that the work they do is essential to the university and the country.

Abigail Constantino

Abigail Constantino started her journalism career writing for a local newspaper in Fairfax County, Virginia. She has a master’s degree in interactive journalism from American University and a master’s degree in English Literature from The George Washington University.

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