Reily managers threaten to strike over inequities

Mackenzie Bookamer and Rohan Goswami

reily with student walking up stairs
Managers at Reily are threatening to strike if their demands aren’t met. (Arielle Loubier)

Reily Student Recreation Center is frequented by Tulane University students, faculty and affiliates alike, and its staff provide critical support in the smooth functioning of the nearly 160,000-square-foot facility. However, according to Reily employees, Tulane’s recent minimum wage change left managers and supervisors in a financially challenging situation.

Tulane raised the minimum wage of student employees and non-student employees to $10 an hour and $15 an hour, respectively, effective Oct. 1, but Reily managers object to the idea that both entry level staff and managers alike now receive equal pay. Presently, Tulane has no plans to increase the hourly $10.50 hourly wage that student Reily Building Managers receive.

“Our primary goal is to work with the University to identify and address these inequities, and to ensure that the administration understands not only that these inequities are real and have impacts on the lives of the people in their community, but will also be damaging to the ability of the University to function efficiently and continue to serve the Tulane community,” building manager Daisy Huck said. 

Huck, a native New Orleanian and one of the non-student managers on staff, has been an employee with Reily for 4.5 years. Her family has extensive ties to Tulane — her father is a professor, her mother is an exercise instructor and her sister is a current undergraduate. Huck recalls her regular childhood visits to both Tulane’s campus and to Reily.

“I am as much a part of this community as any Tulane affiliate, and to be told that simply because I do not pay tuition, I am less deserving of space here, is extremely hurtful … ” Huck said. She also said she plans to retire from her position before the end of 2022.

Despite her plan to leave Reily, Huck said “I strongly believe that it is my responsibility to fight for my peers and coworkers, and help show Tulane how much value we offer. I have stayed in this job so long because I love the community and the people, and I want to fight for them.”

Shifting pay to fight wage compression was a critical part of the minimum wage increase, a change that required pay raises for more than just entry-level workers so as to keep supervisory wage at an appropriate ratio to staff wage.

According to Huck, managers play an integral role in keeping Reily open for use. “The administration seems to be under the impression that this is a relaxed student position. This could not be further from the truth,” Huck said. 

Managers are responsible for dealing with physical altercations, medical and behavioral crises, providing first-aid if needed, sheltering the building in case of an emergency and overseeing student staff. 

New Orleans’ mask mandate required that all individuals wear a mask indoors, regardless of vaccine status. Managers at Reily are responsible for enforcing this, which has led to pushback in some cases. 

“We have been doing the thankless and difficult task of enforcing the mask mandate inside our facilities, which some patrons are very resistant to. Not one single case has been traced back to Reily, because the Building Managers have been strict and consistent,” Huck said. “Every single day we go above and beyond to keep the Tulane community safe.”

Building managers are calling for a three-fold response by administration: 

  1. All part-time supervisor positions at Tulane University receive raises that reflect their higher wage compensation structures observed pre-October 2021 in an effort to counteract salary. 
  2. Non-student part-time employees retain their jobs past May 2021 with no retroactive layoffs. Instead, allow current non-student employees to keep their positions, while only hiring student supervisors in future hiring rounds. 
  3. Part-time supervisors can fill in the positions they supervise at their higher pay grade up to 20 hours during the semester and 35 hours during breaks.

According to Huck, during school vacations local Reily employees are primarily responsible for staffing all positions at the facility. “Because there is high turnover in student positions, Reily relies on the consistent and available leadership of the year-round staff. Without us, Reily’s hours will be severely limited … particularly during summer and winter,” Huck said.

Huck emphasized that a strike is the last case scenario, and managers hope to sit down with the Tulane administration to resolve these issues in a more diplomatic way. 

“We hope to be able to connect with Tulane student government and with their help, secure a seat at the table so we feel that our voices have been heard and we have an actionable plan for the future,” Huck said. 

If the administration is unwilling to listen to the managers, they are threatening to strike and might leave their positions permanently. 

“We encourage anyone who is experiencing wage compression or facing being let go because of the new policies to reach out to us,” Huck said.

This story was corrected to reflect the wage for non-student managers. The story initially stated that student managers earned a $15 hourly wage; they earn $10.50 an hour.

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