What you need to know about Tufts custodial staff layoffs

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Executive Vice President, Patricia Campbell, speaks to concerned community members on March 27th during a public forum held to discuss the staff cuts.

Earlier this week, six Tufts janitors received layoff notices. They are six of 20 who will be dismissed by late August as part of Patricia Campbell’s, Tufts Vice President and Linda Snyder’s, Vice President of Operations “reorganization plan of custodial services.”

Since early in the 2014 fall semester, Tufts Labor Coalition (TLC), a student group which advocates on behalf of Tufts’ staff workers, started hearing rumors from janitors that layoffs were imminent.

Tufts administrators confirmed these concerns in a Nov. 21 email to the student body which introduced the restructuring as “improving custodial services efficiency” and “encouraging ‘green’ behaviors.”

The email explained that DTZ, Tufts’ custodial services contractor, found Tufts to be inefficiently deploying their janitorial staff and these layoffs aimed to remedy that inefficiency. It would later surface that the 20 proposed janitor layoffs would save the school approximately $900,000.

After TLC met with Tufts administrators throughout the fall semester, the student group escalated their actions, occupying Ballou Hall for approximately 33-hours.

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Tufts Labor Coalition members occupy the Coolidge Room, the main conference room in Ballou Hall, for a total of 33 hours.

The occupation led to an agreement which prevented any staff cuts until, at the earliest, April, and a provision that Patricia Campbell and Linda Snyder would attend a public forum between the community and the administration.

The public forum came and went with attendees, ranging from Tufts alumni, to Matthew McLaughlin, a Somerville Alderman, voicing their dissent for the layoffs. As the reorganization plan remained unchanged, protests and actions only intensified.

As the semester came to a close, actions included janitorial staff marches, union rallies, city resolutions from Medford and Somerville, as well as student and union member arrests, and ultimately, a week-long hunger strike.

With the layoffs now underway, the janitors face an uncertain future and it remains to be seen how the union and Tufts Labor Coalition will respond in the coming months.

Events leading up to the hunger strike

Timeline of the hunger strike

Where we are now

Additional links

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I am a photojournalist and digital reporter with an interest in media innovation, digital platforms, and political systems. I make pictures and report on labor.

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