Students and Custodians Allege Labor Violations against Wesleyan

Wesleying stands in solidarity with our custodial workers in their fight to be treated with dignity and respect as they clean and care for our campus. We affirm their demand for Wesleyan to hire five more workers, and offer our platform and support to the workers and students who are organizing to achieve this.

Tomorrow (Friday, April 26), at noon, students, campus workers, and community members will join together at North College to rally for Five More Workers: Support Good Jobs at Wes. Students, other Wesleyan workers, community organizations, labor unions, artists, and even two sitting Congresspeople (Rep. Pramila Jayapal WA-07 and Rep. Andy Levin MI-09) have expressed their support for Wesleyan’s custodial workers, and Friday’s rally is anticipated to be the largest action yet.

This comes just two weeks after United Student/Labor Action Committee (USLAC) organized a series of protests and disruptions during WesFest to call attention to the unreasonable workloads of our school’s custodians and to demand that Wesleyan hire five more workers. (If you want to know more about the WesFest actions, the Argus did a great job covering them.)

Since WesFest, the administration has failed to take action on (or take seriously) the protesters’ demands and workers’ testimonies, citing data shared in an all-campus email from Chief Administrative Officer, and Treasurer Andy Tanaka on Wednesday, April 24 as justification. USLAC responded by sharing a point-by-point rebuttal of the “facts” presented in Tanaka’s email.

A graph compiled by USLAC to explain perceived flaws in the administration’s data analysis

As mentioned in these documents, there have been new developments with regard to the legality of Wesleyan and SMG’s employment practices. On Friday, April 19, Wesleyan students and custodians worked together to file a National Labor Relations Board charge against Service Management Group (SMG), a custodial services subcontractor, and Wesleyan University as joint employers. This occurred after custodians and students reviewed SMG’s corporate handbook and identified several violations of federal labor law.

Read on to learn more about the violations, their significance, and to view the full redacted complaint.

The violations included:

  • forbidding workers from being on company or client property when not at work
  • banning workers from complaining about working conditions to anyone outside of SMG
  • banning workers from wearing pins or symbols representing political causes
  • banning workers from using cell phones to take photos at work.

USLAC explains:

“Taken together, these items in the handbook have worked to create a pervasive environment of intimidation and fear for workers. By banning gatherings of workers while off duty, publicly complaining, documenting workplace conditions through photographs, and wearing union pins, SMG has acted illegally to pressure workers not to engage in union organizing. This charge affects not only Wesleyan’s SMG employees but also SMG’s other contracts elsewhere, some of which do not enjoy union protection.

Wesleyan has refused to acknowledge its role as a joint employer of SMG workers even though Wesleyan administrators clearly make important managerial decisions that affect workers’ employment and lives.

We hope that through investigating these charges, the NLRB will determine that Wesleyan and SMG are both responsible as employers for creating a safe workplace environment that protects workers’ rights to organize.”

USLAC has shared a full PDF of the filed complaint (with sensitive information redacted) with Wesleying, which can be viewed below:

Please come to the rally at noon tomorrow to support our hard-working custodial workers in demanding 5 more workers to support good jobs at Wesleyan!