UMD housekeeping staff demand more respect, value
CLARIFICATION: The subtitle of this story has been updated to better reflect housekeepers who reported receiving one KN95 mask per week.
Housekeepers at the University of Maryland residential facilities say they have to clean up messes in dorms that they shouldn’t have to deal with.
Towards the end of January, someone put feces on the wall of the men’s restroom on the seventh floor of Elkton Hall, according to GroupMe messages obtained by The Diamondback. University spokeswoman Natifia Mullings acknowledged the incident happened.
In an emailed statement, Mullings said that in these cases, Resident Life staff respond quickly to “reiterate community expectations, seek community assistance regarding these incidents, and remind students of the impact negative actions” on the university community and maintenance staff.
Residential facilities also said they seek “to hold individuals accountable for their actions when they fail to meet these expectations.” This university has not revealed the person responsible for this incident or the consequences that were meted out to this person, if any.
But incidents like this are not as rare as one might think.
Several years ago, Shernette Lyons, a residential housekeeper, showed up for work at Chestertown Hall, thinking it was going to be a normal working day. Then she saw feces in the shower of the women’s restroom down the hall. A few days later, it happened again.
Lyons left the mess on the floor both times and told his supervisor about it, who eventually told the resident assistant on the floor. Lyons said she assumed another housekeeper had cleaned it because both times the mess was gone the next time she showed up for work. Lyons found it disrespectful for a student living in a dorm to do something like this.
“I went there to work, not to clean [feces]”Lyon said. “I don’t condone that. I think it’s disrespectful because it’s human bodily fluids.
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Lyons, who has worked at the university for 11 years, also mentioned that she had never received training in how to clean up feces and said it should not be part of her job.
Beyond some housekeepers having to clean up bodily fluids, Todd Holden, the president of local AFSCME 1072, which represents employees at that university, said housekeepers who work in residential facilities are provided with a mask. KN95 per week. It’s different for housekeepers than facility management, Holden said.
“In [facilities management], housekeepers receive one mask a day, no questions asked. If the mask gets wet, dirty or damaged, they may, no questions asked, be able to obtain additional masks upon request from the supervisor,” Holden said.
But Holden added the caveat that distribution of masks can vary from building to building and supervisor to supervisor.
In response to allegations of a mask disparity between housekeepers who work in residential facilities versus facility management, the Residential Facilities Department responded with a statement.
“We maintain an inventory of masks and all of our housekeepers can use as many masks as they need,” the statement said. “Based on feedback from housekeepers, we have changed their supplies so that they can provide housekeepers with individually wrapped KN95 masks.”
But according to Lyons, who now works at Centerville Hall, she was only able to get one KN95 mask a week, even when she questioned her supervisor. Lyons said she felt the need to order more for herself.
“[My supervisor] say one for the week. I said, ‘For the week?’ said Lyons. “They don’t want to give us KN95 [masks] because they don’t want to buy it.
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Rhonda Leneski, a residential facility housekeeper who works at Ellicott Hall, also said she only gets one mask a week. He was told to “just clean” the mask whenever it got dirty.
Once, Leneski got his KN95 mask wet and threw it away because it was too wet to use. Leneski informed her supervisor but was told that she had already obtained her KN95 for the week. Leneski’s only option was to put on a standard blue surgical mask.
Leneski said the university should give housekeepers KN95 masks every day.
“They have to give us the [K]N95 mask if they want us to wear the [K]N95 mask,” she said.
Another problem is how hot it can get in the dorms. Lyons and Leneski said the housekeepers working in the dorms sweat a lot. Right now, the heat is skyrocketing in the dorms, Lyons said, and it’s hot while they’re doing their jobs. Sweat in masks is another reason Lyons said housekeepers should receive more KN95 masks than they currently receive.
AFSCME Local 1072 has distributed over 3,500 masks to university employees since the summer of 2020 to help where they can. Holden said providing masks and other COVID-19 resources was an “ongoing issue.”
“That’s no way to run a workplace that values people,” Holden said.