Since we broke the news Tuesday that the management in the University of Tennessee's Building Services department seems to be systematically exploiting its custodial workers, a number of other news outlets have picked up the story (including our corporate overlords at the KNS). Unfortunately, no one yet has pointed out any kind of way you -- yes, you -- can express your concerns about the situation to the university. So we're here to help.
However, before we tell you what you can do, we want to emphasize one thing: The abuses and situations detailed in our story are not limited to the handful of employees with whom we spoke, nor did we have room to detail every alleged abuse. There are also allegations of nepotistic hiring in violation of UT's policy, of retaliatory scheduling -- one employee we spoke with hadn't had a weekend off in a year -- and of promoting employees with less than six months of experience into supervisory positions, again, in violation of UT policy. There are also allegations that certain supervisors demand cleaning practices in violation of OSHA standards.
We should note that we laid out all these very specific complaints, as well as what was detailed in our article, when we asked UT for comment, and they chose not to respond in depth to any point we asked about. And, as noted in the article, UT's response that they are already handling the issue seems to be contradicted by employees who have since been penalized for daring to speak out in the meeting held to ostensibly address the concerns.
So now that all of that's out there, and now that you're properly informed and concerned, here's what you can do:
First, you can sign a petition. Will it do any good? Will it help? Who knows. But it exists, and if you want to sign it to express your displeasure, go for it.
Second -- and this might be a slightly better way to get people's attention -- you can go to UCW-CWA's website to send an action alert. There's a form e-mail, but you can edit it as you wish. If you send it from the site, it will automatically go to Chris Cimino, the Vice Chancellor, in Finance and Administration; Dave Irvin, the head of UT's Facilities Services, which oversees Building Services; and Joe DiPietro, the President of UT. But you can also copy and paste the form letter into your own e-mail account and send it to whomever you might think would be a good fit in the UT administration.
Will this be enough? Again, we have no idea. One question raised at yesterday's meeting is what will happen if all this press has no effect. UCW-CWA President Thomas Anderson said that protests could be the next step (and possibly at June's Board of Directors meeting). But he also indicated that the union is investigating its legal options, especially as far as violations of the Americans with Disability Act goes. For the record, no one we interviewed wants to file a lawsuit. They just want, as one person told me, to quit "being treated like some kind of a subhuman." But if it takes legal action to do that, UT may find itself in a mess later this year.