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University raises housekeeper pay by 90 cents per hour, workers' demands remain unmet

20221028_Joshi_university-housekeepers-protest
UNC housekeeper chants to the crowd during the UNC Housekeepers March & Rally at the Old Well on Oct. 28, 2022.

After months of advocacy, University housekeepers have been granted a pay raise of 90 cents to $16.81 per hour, according to The Workers Union at UNC. 

Since September, housekeepers have been organizing with The Workers Union around two demands — $20 per hour wages and free parking. Neither demand is met by this recent move. 

Robin Lee, a housekeeper who attended a recent meeting with UNC representatives, said the raise felt like a “slap in the face.”

Lee said she asked at the meeting if others could pay their bills with a housekeeper's wages.

The Campus Y has also been helping organize student support for the housekeeper demands, and members of that effort have expressed similar disappointment with the raise. 

“Yeah, UNC did something,” said Imani Rankins, a Campus Y executive board member. “But, realistically, what is 90 cents going to do for you if you have a rent payment or a mortgage payment that has to be paid? I guarantee you that the landlord is not going to be appreciative of you giving them 90 extra cents.”

A Dec. 15 email statement from Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz, Vice Chancellor for Finance and Operations Nate Knuffman and Vice Chancellor for Human Resources and Equal Opportunity and Compliance Becci Menghini gave further details about the raises. The statement was shared with campus leaders.

“​​These increases come after advocacy from the chancellor, members of his leadership team, and the Board of Trustees, which ultimately brought about changes in state systems to allow this adjustment,” UNC Media Relations read. 

The North Carolina Office of State Human Resources recently approved updated salary ranges for the Building Environmental Services classification, the statement said. This change allowed the University to implement Labor Market Adjustment Reserve (LMAR) increases for over 400 eligible employees. 

The LMAR is a pool of funding meant to address salary issues for non-faculty university employees within the UNC System. LMAR increases have specific guidelines, including limits on salary increases and an extensive approval process for all funding changes.

The email also specified that these raises will be retroactive to Nov. 21 and will be reflected in employees' Dec. 16 paycheck.

Based on these guidelines, the raises are permanent and dependent on specific positions and “competency levels” according to state-provided market-based rates. In a Dec. 14 email sent to employees eligible for the raise, the University said the new maximum salary for Building Environmental Services Supervisors is $65,760. 

“Supervisors ain't be running this place by their damn selves,” Lee said. “They ain't coming out their damn offices, they ain't using no damn mops, they ain't running no vacuum cleaners. So how you (going to) pay them more than you pay the ones that are working?”

Rankins said news of the raise doesn’t change student support for the housekeepers' cause and encouraged students to continue acting mindfully and empathetically to show support.

She said workers on campus — especially housekeepers — aren't being paid fairly.

"As students, we need to make sure that we do whatever we can to lighten the load and not be blinded to the struggles that the people that help our University function are going through,” Rankins said.

@_aishabee_

university@dailytarheel.com

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Aisha Baiocchi

Aisha Baiocchi is the 2023-24 enterprise managing editor at The Daily Tar Heel. She has previously served as a senior writer on the university desk. Aisha is a junior majoring in journalism at UNC and international comparative studies at Duke University, as well as a minor in history.