UNC housekeepers started organizing for $20 per hour wages and free parking in September of 2022, and they say not much has changed since they started.
Neither demand has been met fully by the University and housekeeper leaders say the last change they saw was a 90-cent raise in December, bringing their base wage rate to $16.81. In May, they formed their own co-chapter of The Workers Union specifically for campus workers, but even within the group, many members say they aren’t sure how to keep momentum going to create change.
Robin Lee, the president of the housekeeper co-chapter, said she’s thinking of retiring in the spring. She’s been having health problems: hip pains so bad she has been taking time off — something Lee says she “never does.” She’s not sure if they stem from her housekeeping work, her second job or something else.
“I feel like giving up and I don't want to give up,” she said. “It just seems like it’s not changing. I’ve done been to the legislature three times since this started and still nothing’s changing.”
On the other hand, the co-chapter's vice president Tracy Harter said she wants to focus more on organizing for other causes, like addressing campus safety after the Aug. 28 shooting.
“It’s something different than $20 an hour and free parking,” she said. “To me, this is something that’s much more serious, and we’re much more likely to get national attention on it.”
Lee and Harter said housekeepers are still planning to have meetings with guidance from The Workers Union at UNC, which helped them raise concerns to the Board of Trustees during one of their meetings last spring. All of the unions' planned meetings this semester have been pushed back because of University days off and lockdowns.
“It’s hard to focus on it right now,” Harter said. “But we’ll get back to organizing soon.”
Dante Strobino, a UE International Representative, has been working with the housekeepers since they joined the union in 1997. He said UE isn’t giving up on the housekeepers, they’ve just been approaching the issue differently lately.