On Wednesday, workers from the University of Washington-run laundry that services UW hospitals and clinics gathered with supporters on the university campus. They fear they could lose their jobs as the university moves to privatize the laundry. They used the rally to highlight that fear and call on the school to reconsider.
The next day, 15 of the laundry's roughly 100 employees got a new reason to worry: They received notices that they will be laid off in 60 days.
Rod Palmquist from the Washington Federation of State Employees AFSCME Council 28, which represents some of the laundry workers, said the union plans to rally community members and elected officials to try to fight the layoffs. He said the union does not believe the layoffs are retaliation.
UW Medicine spokesperson Tina Mankowski said the layoffs are the result of a recent decrease in workload at the laundry. She said the laid off workers will qualify for "a number of jobs" currently open on campus, at Harborview, and at the University of Washington Medical Center.
The laundry currently operates out of a facility near the Mount Baker light rail station. The employees work for the university and most make $15-$18 an hour. Union leaders fear the privatization will mean a loss of stable jobs with benefits. University representatives say it's a financial necessity. UW Medicine had a $75 million operating loss in 2017. UW Medicine plans to issue a request in May for proposals to potentially hire an outside company to takeover laundry services.
After the rally Wednesday, workers, advocates, and students marched to UW President Ana Mari Cauce’s office to deliver a petition and request a meeting between the workers and Cauce. Palmquist said a staffer for Cauce emailed the union afterward to say Cauce "would like to meet with them, and she endeavors to do so at the laundry facility." It's not yet clear when that meeting will happen.