As students at this university, many of us go about our lives at Fairfield without recognizing the employees who are responsible for keeping the university going. These maintenance workers are responsible for the university functioning in regards to electricity, plumbing and other campus facilities.

Recently, however, several of these maintenance workers, such as Pat Bike, a plumber, Alex Sency, a locksmith and John Minopolis, Jr., an electrician, felt that the University had been doing them an injustice. They had noticed that there was an increase in the amount of outsourcing for other workers to complete the tasks that the Fairfield maintenance staff is responsible for.

Many of these workers are confused as to why the University is outsourcing for other workers when there is already a capable maintenance staff at Fairfield.
“It seems like a smaller engineering department and more outsourcing would wind up costing the university more money,” said Andres Puerta, an organizer with the International Union of Operating Engineers – Local 30, the union which the engineering crew at Fairfield are members of.

Bike shared that one of the major concerns of the maintenance staff is how this outsourcing is affecting their ability to make a living.

“We’re concerned employees. This is our livelihood, we want to stay here. A lot of us have put in a lot of time here,” Bike said, noting that he feels the University is not taking into account the years of service many of the workers have put in at the school, and the fact that outsourcing may hurt the workers and their families.

Based on their concern, the maintenance staff sent a letter to President Jeffrey von Arx, S.J. requesting an opportunity to sit down with him and discuss why the University is outsourcing for jobs that the maintenance staff is capable of completing themselves.

According to Sency, a locksmith, the maintenance staff wanted von Arx to show them that outsourcing is more cost effective, if that’s the case, in an in-person meeting.

However, von Arx wrote in response to their letter that given that the maintenance staff is part of a union, they must communicate through their union representatives only, saying that “unionization introduces a contract in the form of a collective bargaining agreement that outlines formal lines of communication through your union representatives.”

For Puerta, von Arx’s refusal to meet with the maintenance staff in person is going against the Jesuit values that the University prides itself upon.

“This is a values issue. He should be willing to sit down with the workers and explain. I think that the Catholic Church would support that. He should at least listen to their concerns,” Puerta said.

Sency agreed, saying that “every employee that comes up with an idea to save money should be listened to regardless of what you do, whether you’re a plumber, or a vice president,” arguing that the maintenance workers should be able to express their thoughts to von Arx directly.

For Bike, this entire experience has taught him that the University “doesn’t practice what it preaches” in terms of Jesuit values.

For Puerta, “the University needs to care about what the issues are that are affecting the people that work on campus because the students care about that.”

Senior Estevam Machado feels that the maintenance staff deserves to be informed of why the University is outsourcing. “I think both parts should act as fair as possible. I think the University should be clear with the maintenance workers why it is doing what it is doing. They should explain what they have to explain. This way we can have a just employment system.”

For von Arx, his refusal to meet with the maintenance staff directly has to do with the rules regarding unions.

Our maintenance staff is represented by the Operating Engineers, Local 30. While we value and appreciate the good work they do, the University is obligated to communicate through the union rather than directly with the staff on all work related topics. We respect and honor this relationship and will continue to respond to all inquiries through the proper channels,” von Arx stated.

Another issue concerning the maintenance staff which they wish to bring up to von Arx is the conditions of the workers Fairfield is outsourcing for. According to Puerta, “There’s this moral obligation that if people are on campus and they’re working, then they should have living wages for their families, have job security and they don’t know that’s true necessarily for everyone that comes in to work.”

Minopolis, Jr., an electrician at Fairfield, added that “you know these men aren’t getting fair wages and getting the benefit packages. How much better would it be to show to the community, ‘Let’s hire these men in-house, and give their families and children a free education,’ where that opportunity might never happen for them. Break that cycle maybe. It’s a wonderful thing. It’s a beautiful thing. It’s a Christian thing.”

Currently, according to Puerta, “the workers are preparing to go into negotiations for the second contract. They’re waiting for a response from the administration on the dates of the negotiation.”

“This semester, the workers will be sitting down and negotiating a new agreement with the University,” Puerta continued, noting that they will be meeting with David Frassinelli, associate vice president for Facilities Management, Peter Crowley, director of Facilities Management, and the University’s attorney. Puerta explained, however, that even though the staff will be able to meet with these representatives, they still wish to speak with von Arx directly instead of going through intermediaries.

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---- Managing Editor Emeritus---- English: Professional Writing

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