LIZ ANASTASIADIS, Managing Editor—While you’re getting a cup of coffee, food, your mail, or studying on the fourth floor, Tina Barnes from Facilities Services is not too far behind.
A Newark, Ohio native of 39 years old, Barnes has two young boys. A graduate from Newark high school and BA in political science from University of Toledo, Barnes’ main location of work on campus is Slayter floors two, three and four.
Barnes says that the benefits she receives for her boys are the driving force for why she’s been working for Denison for the last five years.
“In a job aspect, Denison is a great place to work for,” says Barnes. “That’s the main reason why I’m here –because of the benefits. They treat their employees really well.”
Benefits for facility service workers is Healthcare, workers can take 8 credit hours of classes at Denison per semester for free, their children can go to Denison for free (and other schools in conference for a reduced price) and a 401K retirement plan. 401k is a qualified retirement plan that allows eligible employees of a company to save and invest for their own retirement on a tax deferred basis. These contributions are deducted from your salary on a pre-tax basis.
However, Barnes least-favorite thing about working for Denison is the hourly wage. In 2018, the starting wage was increased from $10 an hour to $12. Currently, this is more than the state of Ohio’s minimum wage of $8.55 an hour. Other than Bon Appetit (Denison Dining Services Employees) which starts at $10 an hour, working for facilities services is the lowest paying job on campus. Student employees from Denison make an hourly wage of 9.25.
No one can support a family on just that, it’s not possible,” says Barnes. “We have a lot of people in our department who are single parents and I don’t know how they do it. If I didn’t have a spouse bringing in another income it wouldn’t work. Unfortunately, when you look at the tuition benefits it seems to balance it out. If you aren’t here for the benefits as an employee for our department, I don’t know why you’re here. You can probably make more at McDonalds.”
Barnes remarked that she works this job so that her kids can get the benefits when they’re older. In order for her kids to have the benefits, Barnes has to work for Denison entirety of their degree for it to remain free of cost.
Ohio’s minimum wage is set to increase starting Jan. 1, 2020 to $8.70 an hour for non-tipped employees and $4.35 an hour for tipped employees. The Ohio State Universities minimum wage was recently increased to $15 an hour for all employees on August 30, 2019. The initiative was implemented across the university and Wexner Medical Center with Ohio State’s annual merit compensation process in 2020.
The national average for minimum wage benefits is $7.25 an hour. However, students who are from different states and inter-city locations feel as though they aren’t making enough.
Nancy Kellogg, a 60-year-old from Newark, Ohio who works for Bon Appetit Dining Services, talks about her distress with working in Slayter Market.
“We’re mostly understaffed so I find myself working long hours multiple days a week,” says Kellogg. “I have health problems and I sometimes have to wear a wet towel on my neck so I don’t pass out.”
Barnes describes what it’s like to clean Slayter. One of her particular pet peeves is when kids leave trash on the tables in Slayter although there are trashcans everywhere, and chairs that are left without being pushed back in. She voices though that students are generally kind and helpful when they see her on the job.
Barnes is the only Facilities Services member who works full-time in Slayter. She’s worked in only Slayter for the last two years. Two years ago, Denison started to assign people to a building for an entire day. Before that, workers were in an academic building for four hours, and in a residential hall cleaning for the other four. During the summer, they clean all of the rooms (residential and academic) on campus.
“The whole school year you do the same thing every day. It gets really monotonous. By the time summer rolls around you get excited because it’s something different,” says Barnes. “You go in and clean rooms and you aren’t by yourself. But also, when it gets to the end of summer, you’re really done with that and ready for the school year to start.”
Most of the dorm rooms at Denison aren’t air-conditioned save for the senior apartments. During the summer, the workers are in the humid buildings scrubbing them down.
“We wish there was air-conditioning in every room too,” continues Barnes. “It’s not just the students.”
When Barnes isn’t at Denison, she’s typically pretty busy taking her two boys, aged nine and eight, to sporting activities. He plays baseball, football and basketball and that keeps her busy in the evenings.
When she isn’t carting around her boys, she loves to indulge in putting puzzles together.
“That’s what I used to do with my family when I was growing up. Two years ago, I was working mornings in Talbot and they sometimes leave puzzles on the tables,” says Barnes. “If I had a few free minutes, you would find me at the table putting the puzzle together. I find it fun and relaxing.”
As of now, there’s nothing in progress regarding the increase of wages at Denison for students, facilities services and Bon Appetit workers. Barnes will have to work upwards of 18 more years at Denison in order to reap the benefits for her children’s futures.