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The Daily Tar Heel

Rally Voices Housekeeper Concerns

Members of UE Local 150, which is the N.C. Public Service Workers Union, and UE Local 150A, the UNC graduate student and adjunct faculty union, collaborated to voice their opinions at the rally.

Several participants, some wearing UE shirts, held posters and signs with slogans like "We Need a Raise" and "Workers Demand Respect."

The signs, along with cheers such as, "Who are we? UE!" and "Hey hey, ho ho, Bill Burston's got to go," created an enthusiastic sentiment at the rally. Housekeeping Director Burston refused to comment on the incident.

Barbara Prear, president of UE Local 150, opened the rally, naming some conditions she said are unfair, such as housekeepers being forced to take other employees' shifts in their absence. "I shouldn't be responsible when another person's out -- that is the University's responsibility to put someone on their job," Prear said.

Brian Thomas, a graduate student and UE Local 150A member, said the unions joined in solidarity. "You have people in a work environment that are being treated unfairly."

During the rally, Thomas read the University's mission statement, which includes wording about improving the condition of human life. "(UNC) is not completing their mission," he said.

Marsha Tinnen was one of many housekeepers who spoke. "The University needs to step up to the table and be responsible for the different issues that we have," she said.

Bob Kingsley, director of organization at the national UE organization, spoke to the housekeepers at the rally. "You're engaged in a struggle for fairness and a struggle for justice, as well as a struggle for dignity and respect."

Kingsley said that in September, UE 150 is holding the union's national convention in North Carolina, the first worker's union convention to be held in the state since the 1800s. "If (the administration) doesn't come across and speak to (housekeepers), they're going to hear from our national body -- face to face -- in September."

Shelton said that the rally caught his attention and that he stopped to listen to concerns. "I want to say on behalf of the chancellor that we're pleased that you're here to share your concerns with us," he told the crowd.

Carolyn Elfland, associate vice chancellor for campus services, was not at the rally but later said budget cuts and UNC's expansion have worsened working conditions. "In the end, it's the same amount of people covering more space."

But Elfland said that last fall, housekeeping employees provided administrators with a list of goals they had for their work unit and work environment. "We are working on a number of those goals that were set at that time."

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