PETITION--Custodian Demands and Letter to Faculty/Staff

. Monday, June 22, 2009

The following petition was written by ABC after we were informed that faculty and staff were starting to notice a change in custodial service. We drafted this first as an open letter to let faculty and staff (such as program directors) know why these changes were happening. After talking with custodial staff who pushed for a more active engagement, we turned this into a paper and online petition. Faculty can now not only read about changes, but do something about them! Cuts to custodial staff, manager retaliation, and changes in the workplace make the University unsafe for everyone. Please print and sign, particularly if you are faculty, staff, research assistant or teaching assistant at UW, and contact us to know how to get your signed petition to us. You can also sign by e-mailing us your name, date, position/department, e-mail address and phone number at You can also sign this petition online!


Dear faculty, staff, students and other concerned members of the University of Washington:

The University of Washington proposed budget cuts, tuition hikes and layoffs disproportionately affect immigrants, people of color, women, people with disabilities, and queer people. This is clearly illustrated by the U of W using all its weight and power to crush the custodians. What is happening to the custodians today can and will happen to other U of W employees tomorrow unless we stand in solidarity with the custodians now.

You may notice changes in the quality of cleaning services to your buildings, departments, and offices. Trash cans un-emptied, lack of vacuuming, or disruptive cleaning procedures during the middle of the workday. We are writing to let you know why standards have deteriorated, and to ask for your support of the custodians who are battling management to save their jobs and keep the university buildings clean, sanitary and safe for everybody.

The administrators of the University of Washington claim that the current economic crisis has led them to impose the cuts to staff and services. But Custodial Services, like many other U of W departments, have been cutting staff jobs for years all the while increasing the number of highly paid managers, directors, administrators, etc. Following the May 28th open meeting with the Board of Regents the custodian asked why cuts and shift changes were being used to balance the budget instead of paid cuts to the many layers of management they were answered with drastic layoffs, work changes and other forms of retaliation.

+ Lay off of 17 custodial staff which will be implemented in July 2009, this as the U of W continues to add more buildings for the skeleton custodian staff to maintain.

+ Current vacancies not being filled through new hiring thereby pressuring one custodian to do the work of two or three people.

+ Forcing 35 custodians from swing shift to day shift effective July 1st. This will require custodians to race through many jobs they used to have 8 hours to do in the 3 hour time period from 5 AM until 8 AM when classes/ labs open. This impossible work load is a recipe for on the job injuries and accidents.

+Changing the custodian work conditions to what management ironically calls “team-cleaning” which in reality makes the custodial work slower, less effective, more monotonous and difficult.

+Management has ordered the custodians to no longer empty office trash cans.

+Management is implementing the use of water-less cleaning products which exposes workers, students, staff, and faculty to excessive chemicals.

The University of Washington likes to present a liberal and friendly face to the community at large has been petty and ruthless in retaliating against custodians who have spoken up about their work conditions and shifts.

+Custodians have been arbitrarily and in some cases frequently switched to new locations without warning or training.

+Custodians have been switched to different managers; this has required them to walk farther between their punch-in location and their worksites, with some having to walk 15 minutes in the dark. This decreases the time for staff to clean.

All of these changes create a hostile working environment and impose an unsafe and unsustainable speed up of the work-rate, making it more difficult for custodians to do their jobs well. For this reason, custodians continue to demand:

+ No team cleaning
+ No frequent or arbitrary building transfers
+ No management retaliation against workers and shop stewards
+ Keep ALL of the swing shift positions, not just 50.
+ Rehire the 17 people who have been laid off

The issues outlined above affect not just the custodial staff who are losing jobs, missing time with children, and risking safety, but also students’ ability to learn, and teachers’ ability to teach.

Management is justifying all of these changes by appealing to the budget cuts, even if they had been planning some of them well in advance. The budget recently approved by the Board of Regents also proposes a number of other cuts that directly affect students and faculty, including an almost 50% cut to the women’s center, cuts to disability studies, cuts to TA’s and RA’s, non-tenured faculty, and a number of other programs and departments. It also raises student tuition 28 % over two years. Many of these cuts come in batches of under $100,000. Meanwhile, many top level administrators continue to make over $400,000 a year.

Students and staff have been very active in proposing alternatives, and we have developed a public budget that does not include tuition hikes or cuts to students, low and middle-wage staff, or faculty but cuts from the top instead. We ask you now to sign this petition to show your support for the custodians’ demands and for clean and safe buildings at UW. We also encourage you to call Gene Woodard, director of Custodial Services at 206-543-7831 to register your concerns, or email him at:

Thank you very much for your time. Anti-Budget Cuts Coalition has meetings every Thursday at 6 PM in 206 Parrington Hall, and would love for you to join us. You can contact us at or check online at for more information

Name and Signature

Date Position/Department Email Phone