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University of Arkansas Workers Protest Potential Outsourcing

The university is considering shifting custodial and groundskeeping services to a third party

March 19, 2024

According to Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette, roughly two dozen employees at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville held a protest this past weekend against the possible outsourcing of custodial and groundskeeping work.

As part of a regular evaluation, the university is currently assessing its custodial and groundskeeping services and is considering handing over the responsibilities to a third-party provider. According to the Gazette, the university, which has yet to make a final decision, could alter some services, outsource the services (either in whole or part), or make no changes at all.

“Right now, we can’t fill all the positions to provide [these] services,” University of Arkansas Provost Terry Martin said at a February faculty senate meeting. “[This is] not necessarily about saving money, but about the quality of work for the campus.”

Protesting workers, however, believe outsourcing would hurt the university’s current employees. Mike Pierce, an associate professor of history at the university who protested this weekend, told the Gazette, “This is the most important thing we can do on this day. Anyone who tells you outsourcing employees won’t hurt employees is either dumb or thinks you’re dumb.” He also added, “Outsourcing custodial and grounds staff is just the beginning.”

Being a “an employer of choice” is an important part of university’s strategic plan, Pierce said, continuing that “Outsourcing and being an ‘employer of choice’ cannot exist together.”

Also protesting was custodian supervisor Rebecca Williams, who told the Gazette, “We take pride in what we do. We’re very loyal and dependable, and we’re doing everything we can to make the university look good.”

Megan Maples, a custodian who works the night shift at the university’s main library, added, “We just want to keep doing what we’re doing. What we do is really important. I love what I do, and it won’t be the same,” she said, if the work were outsourced.

According to the article, Fayetteville Mayor Lioneld Jordan, a former employee of the university, stopped by the protest to hear what workers had to say. “Workers need to unify, organize, stand up, and speak up. Everybody needs to be able to work and feed their family,” Jordan said, adding, “I’ve never been a fan of outsourcing.”

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