KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — People gathered at The Torchbearer at the University of Tennessee on Friday, calling for a pay raise and hazard pay for people working to keep dorms clean and safe.
United Campus Workers, a union for higher education employees, said that custodians play an important part in the university's containment plan. They called on Chancellor Donde Plowman and Chandra Myrick, the executive director of housing, to give custodians a hazard pay of $2.50 per hour due to their role in the plan.
Organizers also called for a raise to custodians' minimum pay rate, to $15 per hour. They said that custodians can be understaffed and that few employees make a living wage.
Officials with the University of Tennessee said that they kept cases among employees low and have worked to keep custodians safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. The full statement can be read below:
We greatly appreciate the efforts of the custodians and other staff members who work in our residence halls to support students and slow the spread of COVID-19. Through university-provided PPE, hand sanitizer stations and physical barriers, and by establishing social distancing and other prevention efforts, we have been able to keep cases among employees low and limit the potential for workplace transmission. We urge all employees to continue to check their health daily, stay home when sick, report any self-isolations, and follow health and safety guidelines as we work together to keep the campus open and safe.
On Thursday, officials with the university said that they were loosening restrictions for on-campus students after they saw falling COVID-19 rates in the campus community. They are encouraging students to wear masks and practice social distancing.
People who gathered at The Torchbearer were asked to wear masks and practice social distancing. On Friday, officials reported 72 active cases among the campus community, including 61 students and 11 employees.