Students, along with campus janitors and their families, gathered Sunday at Tufts University to protest possible job losses for about 35 custodians.
"When I see the janitors I see people who could be my parents," said Tufts Senior Cynthia Guerra.
Five students, including Arismer Angeles, are on a hunger strike to get the administration's attention. Others are camping out in the quad.
"The hunger strike is our last resort," said Angeles. "We've done rallies, we've done sit-ins ... none of them have even gotten close to getting the administration to budging or conceding to our demands."
The SEIU, which represents the 200 plus contracted janitors on campus, tells necn that budget cuts could mean 35 janitors will be without jobs in the next few weeks, and that could be just the first wave of job losses.
"It's going to affect their families," said the SEIU's Roxana Rivera. "They're not going to be able to put food on the table, they're not going to be able to make rent at the end of the day."
Janitors, speaking through translators, said that they're worried about losing their paychecks and the extra burden if there are fewer of them keeping the campus clean.
Adelaida Colon and Blanca Gutierrez are two of the janitors fearful they or their colleagues may lose their paychecks.
They told necn through a translator they are grateful for the student’s action.
Members of the Tufts Labor Coalition, a student group that fights for the rights of campus workers, say they are worried about the workers livelihoods as well as the practical implications for the sprawling campus.
"Tufts already struggles with campus efficiency cleanliness," said coalition member David Ferrandiz.
The students say they'll be on the hunger strike and occupying the quad indefinitely.
Tufts spokesperson Kim Thurler issued the following statement to necn:
"Tufts University respects and supports the rights of our community to hold peaceful demonstrations to express their ideas and opinions as long as such demonstrations are conducted in compliance with university policies. A number of students are camping outside in support of the DTZ custodians who work on Tufts' campuses. They are free to do so as long as they do not interfere with university operations or activities. There are no restrictions on their ability to access food or come and go. We are aware that some students have informed the media of a planned hunger strike but we hope that all participants will be mindful of their health and safety. The university is doing its best to keep the demonstration area secure. We value the contributions of all members of our community, including the custodians provided by DTZ. The reorganization of custodial services -- to include service standards similar to those at other universities -- is one element of an institution-wide commitment to improve operational efficiencies so that Tufts’ resources can be directed to our core educational mission. We take seriously our responsibility to control tuition costs and offer the financial aid that allows us to admit outstanding students from all socioeconomic backgrounds. In support of that goal, efforts are underway across the university to improve the effectiveness and achieve cost savings in major administrative areas. The number of affected custodial positions ultimately will be determined by the policies and procedures of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which represents the custodians. DTZ, which has a workforce of 2,500 in the Greater Boston area, has committed to doing everything possible to find other jobs within the company for the affected custodians, including implementing a hiring freeze to facilitate the transfer of affected workers to new locations.