Cheek-Clark Building

Chris Baumann on the continuing problems facing low-wage workers

Excerpt Description: Chris Baumann explains the struggle housekeepers faced to get the University to meet the conditions of the settlement and the need to earn the right to collectively bargain.


Interviewee Name: Chris Baumann

Interviewer: Charlotte Fryar

Excerpt Transcript: “I don’t think they did, and that was the hard part, is sustaining the work. I was there last year. The other part of the story was, is that why I felt comfortable leaving at that point was the UE-150 really grew, and so there was a union there to kind of pass the baton to, and so I know they really continued the work, but I know they were focused not just on UNC. They were building a statewide union, which still exists today. I think if I was back in Chapel Hill today, we’d still be doing the same struggle, as an organizer, in terms of wages, and, I would think work conditions would be—and I still don’t know that the training is exactly what we had talked about, right? I even remember the gentleman that got up to speak, I think he was one of the managers, and I think I rolled my eyes at Marsha and said, “It’s the same old issue,” right? Because they always say, “Well, we’re going to train them how to be better housekeepers,” right? Well, that’s standard. What we meant was, is that employees could take classes at the university, right? Or to hire a position—and they were always blocked from that. And we always said, no, a housekeeper should be able to take any darn class just like any other employee at this campus, and if somebody wants to try to get their degree, then they should have that ability or move up to be administrative assistant or whatever or a manager inside the Housekeepers Department. And so it didn’t feel to me in the conversation that—the university should be a creative place and it should be an institution that not only helps the traditional core students, but helps the community around to move folks to where they want to be as an educational institution. So my gut is that even though it was a significant victory at the time, that the university sat down and had to negotiate in a state that it’s illegal to collectively bargain. It’s anti-union. The fact that we were able to get them to sign an agreement was significant, and there were victories there, but I would consider it more winning the battle rather than the war, which we’re fighting throughout the country and the world right now on that piece. So, I mean, they need collective bargaining. Ultimately, that would be the ultimate victory.”

Organization: UNC Housekeepers Association

Excerpt Length: 2:28

Interview Date: 12/22/2017

Interview Location: Tucker, Georgia

Campus Space: Cheek-Clark Building

Citation:  Interview with Chris Baumann by Charlotte Fryar, 22 December 2017, in the Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007), Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.