Despite a deepening financial recession, the University’s 200 housekeeping and groundskeeping workers can rest a little easier after receiving a 3 percent pay raise this week.
After successful negotiations between their union and GW, the wage hike brings their total hourly wage to $15.58. Lou Katz, executive vice president and treasurer, said he hopes the pay increase will make University employees want to work more productively.
“We want people to work harder and smarter,” said Katz, who added that the University has not increased the number of staffers proportionately to its recent increase in square footage.
Katz added that in addition to wage increases, the GW housekeepers also renegotiate health care benefits annually.
“Part of union agreement is that the health benefits and wages are looked at an annual basis,” said Katz. “We treat all faculty and staff the same way, always looked at on an annual bases. We want to be competitive in marketplace.”
The University negotiated the new contract through 32BJ Service Employees International Union, which represents more than 200 full-time campus service workers.
Though pay raises are negotiated on a yearly basis, Jaime Contreras, the union’s capital area director, said a pay raise is never guaranteed, though employees have received slight raises almost every year. Contreras added that the wage increase falls into a comparable range for unionized service workers at other area universities, but he said it marks a striking disparity between the wages of unionized and nonunionized workers.
Contreras also expressed the workers’ gratitude towards the new contract in light of such economic uncertainty, emphasizing that many feel fortunate to have the assurance of a stable income and health care benefits.
Contreras said nonunionized workers can earn as low as half of what unionized workers earn, illustrating the value of union membership.
GW housekeepers “have the peace of mind that comes with job security that all too many nonunion workers are denied,” Contreras said.
Harriet Sims, who has worked at GW for nearly 30 years in several buildings across campus, said both elements of the new contract are favorable.
“Health care is very expensive and with the health care benefits it helps defray the cost,” she said. “The economy is bad so whatever little bit they’ve given us, it does help.”
-Sarah Scire contributed to this report.