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The Daily Tar Heel

Housekeepers present Thorp with grievances

Group protests sit-down policy for housekeepers

Students, housekeepers, and community members march on South Building to protest the University’s Wage-Hour policy Wednesday afternoon. They presented Chancellor Holden Thorp’s office with a copy of their grievances concerning the matter after staging a small rally.
Students, housekeepers, and community members march on South Building to protest the University’s Wage-Hour policy Wednesday afternoon. They presented Chancellor Holden Thorp’s office with a copy of their grievances concerning the matter after staging a small rally.

A crowd of about 40 housekeepers, students and local residents marched to South Building on Wednesday to present Chancellor Holden Thorp with a copy of their stated grievances regarding UNC’s treatment of housekeepers and workers on campus.

The group outlined its concerns in a grievance report, explaining its opposition to the University’s Wage-Hour policy, which prohibits unauthorized rests by workers.

The policy came under scrutiny after eight housekeepers faced disciplinary action this summer for sitting on the job without notifying their supervisors beforehand.
University employees are provided two 15-minute breaks and a one-hour lunch break under the policy and are required to receive approval for any additional breaks.

The incidents sparked controversy on campus, and Wednesday’s march was the most public protest against the policy to date.

“Our overall goal is to get more respect for housekeepers and stop abusive practices,” said Matthew King, a 30-year-old writer from Chapel Hill. “To say that they can’t sit down is just draconian.”

Activists delivered the grievance to Thorp’s office after staging a small rally at about 12:30 p.m. Thorp was in a conference call at the time, but he asked two high-level administrators to consider and discuss the complaint.

Dick Mann, vice chancellor for finance and administration, and Carolyn Elfland, associate vice chancellor for campus services, will report back to Thorp next week.

“Once I’ve heard all of it, then we’ll be able to say what we’re going to do,” said Mann, who will meet today with Employee Forum representatives and Vice Chancellor for Human Resources Brenda Malone.

“At this point, I’m just being brought up-to-date.”
The group protesting the University’s attitude toward workers consisted of about five housekeepers, 15 students, 20 members of the community and a few faculty members.
“It’s been a long time of these folks being stepped on,” said Peter Hoyt, a 58-year-old retired schoolteacher who participated in the protest. “I think the administration doesn’t want them mingling with the students because the students are ‘better’ than them.”

Some members of the group expressed disappointment that Thorp did not address their concerns Wednesday.

“If he really wants to do the right thing, it seems to me that he could cancel whatever he’s doing for 10 minutes and come out here,” Hoyt said.

The grievances were filed by housekeepers James Holman, Schenika Garland, Marilyn Couch, Odessa Davis and Pamela Breeden.

B.J. Dworak contributed reporting.

Contact the University Editor at udesk@unc.edu.

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