Service Employees International Union 32BJ, the union that represents Boston University’s security officers, janitors and maintenance staff, held a march Thursday to demand a better labor contract with the university.
Union representatives, student organizers and attendees gathered in Marsh Plaza at 3:30 p.m. and marched to the John and Kathryn Silber Administrative Center.
The gathered crowd chanted, “What do we want? Jobs! When do we want them? Now!” and, “Workers, united, we’ll never be defeated!”
SEIU 32BJ Vice President Roxana Rivera addressed the crowd saying that the university is ignoring the needs of the workers even though BU is prospering.
“We don’t think that this is a moment for them to make it harder for working families to survive and take care of their families over the next year,” she said.
The union is arguing for affordable healthcare, a fair wage and improved safety conditions, Rivera said.
The crowd gathered also protested the development of the general cleaner position, which BU Medical Campus custodian Jose Martinez said will replace custodians and decrease the wages to $16 an hour.
BU service workers’ current labor contract was put in place October 2014 and included a 10 percent pay raise over four years and the continuation of healthcare benefits. During those contract negotiations, BU workers rallied and threatened to strike. The contract was tentatively agreed upon one day before it was set to expire.
The current contract will expire Oct. 31.
Tim Hall, a Central Campus custodian and a speaker at the march, said negotiations with the university, which have been going on for about three weeks, have been difficult.
“There’s been almost no movement on their side of the table,” Hall said, “which we just find very frustrating and rather insulting.”
Martinez, a member of the bargaining committee, also said the university administration, especially BU President Robert Brown, is not treating the workers with respect.
“If we cross Brown on the street, he will not even acknowledge us,” Martinez said. “Custodians are people too. We’re proud to be part of this university, but we shouldn’t be considered a second-class citizen.”B
Martinez also said he feels that the administration’s priorities have changed over the years.
“Twenty-nine years later, I’m finding that they’re trying to do everything to undermine our positions,” he said. “[It] was once their goal to create a good, blue-collar job, now they want to create these little sub-jobs to push you out, jobs that you could not even afford to rent an apartment here in Boston.”
Boston District 8 City Councilor Josh Zakim was also in attendance. He said that he and Councilor At-Large Ayanna Pressley will bring a resolution before the city council next week urging fair and equitable contracts for the service workers.
Roxanne Anderson, a second-year graduate student in the School of Social Work, said that she came to the march because she thinks BU workers deserve a good contract with adequate benefits.
“I think it’s ridiculous that they have to campaign and be out here in the first place,” Anderson said. “This school has an incredible amount of money and should be using it to support the people who keep this campus safe and clean.”