Dear UM System President and MU Interim Chancellor Mun Choi,
It has recently come to my attention that MU is considering outsourcing/contracting custodial and landscape services. According to a recent Missourian article, a rally was held June 6 to protest this action. My current commitment to sheltering in place prohibited me from attending, thus I am writing this to express my concerns.
As the former vice chancellor for Human Resource Services and the Affirmative Action officer at MU for 27 years, I certainly understand the constraints of declining budgets. During my long tenure with the university, I was involved in talks with employee representatives and labor unions regarding budget cuts, salary freezes, furloughs, compensation restructuring, reorganizations, position eliminations and layoffs.
We discussed the possibility of outsourcing the functions you are currently targeting. In fact, we actually outsourced food services without success and implemented some supplemental custodian contracts with local providers. However, our basic position during my tenure was not to move completely to outsourcing because of the adverse impact it would have on the most vulnerable populations in our workforce — people of color, essential workers and others who work in low wage, hourly paid positions.
There is much public discussion about the importance of essential workers. We speak of how these employees have to continue to work during this very difficult time. I ask you to reconsider your decision to outsource the jobs of these employees who are most vulnerable to both the health and the economic impacts of our current conditions. I would encourage you to seek other creative solutions to solving your current budget crisis. This is an opportunity for the MU administration to demonstrate some compassion for the Black, brown and other hourly employees who have served the university so competently.
Karen Touzeau, retired, is a former vice chancellor for human resources.