Between The Sheets: Laying Off 17 Eastern Maine Hospital Laundry Workers and the UMaine System

Tonight’s online edition of the Bangor Daily News has a brief story about the possible layoff of 17 out of 27 laundry workers at the hospital in order to reduce the volume of daily laundry, to lessen the toll on aging machines, and to meet unspecified environmental concerns. At first glance, this has absolutely nothing to do with the Univ. of Maine System, But I see some connections.

First, and without denying the importance of issues of machinery and of the environment, the initial workers to be cut over the years at Orono and presumably the other six campuses have usually been custodians. These largely invisible employees whose jobs were not eliminated have long had to work harder than before to compensate for the reduced labor force. Whether these custodian cutbacks have affected the many handsome offices of the UMaine System atop Epic Sports in downtown Bangor is not clear–and visitors without official appointments cannot enter those offices in any case.

Second, the hospital’s intention to contract with a private laundry service is akin to the System’s eagerness to use THEIR kind of vendors–expensive outside consultants–in every greater numbers and at ever greater cost. Indeed, cost is no object–after all, we’re not talking about spending some of the millions in reserve funds to provide pay raises to faculty, much less staff.  No, sir, we’re talking about hiring “experts” who, more often than not, will provide the conclusions that the powers that be want.

Third, and finally, the growing use of adjuncts throughout the UMaine System to replace full-time faculty is also akin to seeking outside laundry workers–not an exact analogy, obviously, but not a false one either. More about adjuncts in a future blog.

Meanwhile recqll that the CEO of Eastern Maine Healthcare, the  highly respected (and well paid) Michelle Hood, just stepped down as the Chair of the Univ. of Maine System Board of Trustees. She’ll remain on the Board, having been appointed by Governor Baldacci, not by Governor LePage.