SOS For Brown Mailroom Workers

by Ali Blake, puns by Stoni Tomson

Due to Brown’s intention to outsource mailroom operations to Ricoh, mailroom workers will lose their jobs by the end of July. Some workers have been working there as long as 35 years. Many support children and dependents with their paychecks. There is no commitment by Ricoh or Brown to hire the workers back if this goes through.

Brown tends to do this kind of dirty work in the summer for a reason–students aren’t there to join with the workers as watchdogs for fair treatment. You may have seen this petition circulating to support workers. It has 1,200 signatures and counting (click to sign and learn more!)

But the petition hasn’t been enough, and workers will not go quietly into the night. They are planning to keep their jobs, wages, and benefits with Brown. The solidarity of students who are around in the summer can make or break their efforts.

We trust that the decision was made in good faith, but the fact is that the status quo will harm workers.

If you are around Providence this summer, join us WEDNESDAY AT NOON to show support for the workers and their well-being!!

Not in PVD? No problem! On Wednesday we are asking folks to call in so that the administration knows that this decision is unfortunately happening at the expense of workers.

1) Call VP of Finance Beppie Huidekoper at 401-863-9400 and Assistant VP of Finance Beth Gentry at (401) 863-1762 to let them know that you stand with mailroom workers against the outsourcing to Ricoh, and if the contract goes through, for their rehiring with the preservation of current wages and benefits.
2) Post on Brown’s Facebook page
3) Share the banner image on social media.

 “Brown, don’t outsource!”

This decision by administrators came after learning about parts of the mailroom operation that are slow. The greatest complaint was lack of adequate technology and services provided, not how the workers are performing their jobs. The university is punishing them for a decision that was made at a higher level, while it is not guaranteed that the inefficiencies that affect all of us (e.g. sometimes long lines, maybe a lost package that delays research) will be addressed. We haven’t learned what Ricoh has specifically to solve these problems that Brown doesn’t have the capacity to do itself without harming workers; students have been left in the dark. It seems that what is at stake is saving money, while on the ground it means lower wages and benefits for workers, and no guarantee of improved service for the university as a whole.

It is more difficult to hold outside companies accountable, whether for workers’ wages, possible security/privacy breaches (e.g., bank info and private communications come through the mail), or what have you. Students are stakeholders at and an integral part of Brown, but not at the outside company in the same way.

“Re-hire current employees and preserve current wages and benefits”

Workers have no information yet about wages with Ricoh, but it’s presumed they will drop. Benefits would decrease drastically. Non-union Brown employees at their level currently have:

  • 15 sick days/year VS 6 a year with no rollover at Ricoh.
  • 22 vacation days/year after 2 years VS 10 a year for the first 5 years at Ricoh.
  • 11 holidays VS only 7 at Ricoh.
  • At least 8% university contribution (10% after age 55) for retirement with a 2% employee contribution VS up to 6% company contribution with Ricoh with a 12% employee contribution.

Brown has just turned 250 years old, an event that administrators have decided to commemorate with a lavish celebration of fireworks, flowery speeches by VIPs, and 650 pounds of cake. But when the speeches are over and the cake is eaten, will Brown deliver on its values, or just tell mailroom workers to ‘ship out’? Together, students and workers can hold the university accountable. That would be something to celebrate.

Note: This post is not written by Bluestockings staff writers, but rather gleaned from the Facebook event info for the rally, which you can find here.

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