Wednesday, May 6, 2015

When the Custodians Were Cut, Where Were We?

Those of you who know me outside of my blog may have heard that my daughter Lior, a sophomore at Tufts University in Boston, is the president of the Tufts Labor Coalition. The Tufts Labor Coalition (TLC) has spent most of this year working on the unionization of adjunct faculty, and the preservation of custodial positions as the University switches contractors and decides to have fewer custodians (approximately 1 in 6 custodians' jobs would be cut) to cover an expanding number of university buildings.

TLC has been working with the custodians' union, the SEIU. In the past week TLC and the SEIU held a rally and a protest where several students were (intentionally) arrested in an act of civil disobedience. This week, students are hunger striking. I'm not a big fan of hunger strikes, but there have been articles in the Boston Globe, New York Times, In These Times, television, radio programs like Democracy Now, Huffington Post, and more.

[You can follow them on twitter @tuftslabor or on Facebook at the Tufts Labor Coalition page.]

Lior is on the administrative liaison team. Here she is (bottom right)
going in to meet with the administration. Note the banner the students
have hung at the top of the stairs. Photo from @tuftslabor.

I like this picture, because it names how many families
and lives will be affected. Photo from @tuftslabor. 

All of which brings me back to what I was thinking.
Last year at this time, the Ann Arbor school district was outsourcing and eliminating custodians' jobs.
[Read: Here and here.]

Where were we?

When my older son was in second grade, he and his friend decided to have a contest to see who could drink the most water. Not surprisingly, they drank a little too much, with predictable results. The custodian cleaned up their vomit--and though we made them apologize to the custodian then, I don't really think that's the thanks, or the apology, the custodians needed.

Where were we, parents?
Where were we, teachers?
Where were we, students?
Where were we, principals & secretaries?

Where were we, citizens?

And this plagues me now, as I have heard recently that several custodians are dealing with foreclosures and evictions.

Why is it that a relatively small group of students at Tufts can make a big deal about 35 lives, and we couldn't even lift a finger?

OK...I did lift a finger. Ten, actually, but only on my keyboard.

June 2014 story

April 2010 story

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  1. Young people are amazing. Your daughter is making a difference. I do wish we were more galvanized as a community. Custodians, bus drivers, and soon OPs, our Tech People, and TAs. Next teachers. This started with Governor Engler back in the 80's. Our Right to Work for Less state and the desire to get rid of public school in exchange for the for profit schools will change education forever. Not for the good.

  2. Kudos to Lior from me as well. There remains for us the question of what we will do in the future when a similar issue comes up, such as the district's current attempt to undermine/under-employ the AAEA in "pilot projects". I was a little disappointed when this blog took a neutral stance in the last BOE election and merely asked each candidate to answer a set of questions. Two of the winners, Donna Lasinski and Christine Stead, as well as their "running mates" Jack Panitch and Don Wilkerson, were in favor of the privatization. Stead stated publicly that she had chosen "teachers over custodians". In reality, she chose six-figure administrators over both teachers and custodians, since they are the only group of employees who have not been asked to sacrifice during the current crisis. You and I differed on the issue of the annexation of Whitmore Lake, so I might not have earned an endorsement anyway, but in my opinion the way the district treats its employees is a more immediate issue and an indicator of a candidate's moral and ideological standing. I am planning to run again in 2016, and while I appreciate the balance that your previous method gave the candidates, I hope you will take a less neutral stand in the next election, and I hope we see eye-to-eye on the issues that confront the district in the future.

  3. Well, Hunter, this blog is basically--just me. I'm not big on endorsements in any case, but I'm glad you're going to run again in 2016 and if I'm still blogging then, maybe I'll change my mind about endorsements.
    I think your point about school board members--that their votes are powerful and those decisions are important--is very well taken. And that's partly a problem because we don't seem to do a good job engaging *between* important events. For instance, there will be a big crowd tomorrow at the school board meeting, supporting the teachers--but I've also been to school board meetings where there are only a couple of public speakers. Those are missed opportunities...

    I'll say again, that if other people are interested in guest posting on this blog, please do contact me!