Black Custodial Workers at Clemson
Custodial workers, are defined as groups of people who have, “Assigned responsibilities involving the care and cleaning of a state institution, public building, or state lodge or in the supervision or management of employees performing these duties.” Every day, they wake up sometimes as early as 6 a.m. in the morning and travel to various locations to perform jobs that the average American would never dream of. The requirements to work these jobs usually state a need for a high school diploma or GED. According to chron.com, the national average of pay for custodial work is about $11.94, with the yearly salary being anywhere $24, 840.00 to $26, 030.00. Often, the people who are responsible for ensuring that students, employers, and visitors have a clean place to eat and sit, almost always get overlooked. Custodial work can be viewed as an unwanted job, and sometimes these people can be looked down upon. There are varying ethnic groups that make up custodial work, which is why this research paper is being conducted. Here at Clemson University, there are hundreds of custodial workers who daily tasks include cleaning residence halls, buildings, offices etc. Most of these workers are African-American and have worked these jobs generationally. For this project, the focus was on a certain sect of custodial workers which are the black females. The goal was to understand who they were, their job description, and their overall experience.
Clemson University was established in 1889 as a land grant institution founded by Thomas Green Clemson. Some of the most well-known information is that the school was founded on the plantation of Fort Hill and was built off the backs of black convict labors. Fast forward to well over a century today, and you have an integrated premier school in the South for agricultural and engineering and other forms of applied science. Clemson has earned recognition for having the best football team in the nation, the best school spirit, but most importantly having an amazing group of faculty and staff. Most people think that only students and professors can make a school run, but that is not the case. Some of the most important people who often get overlooked is the custodial staff. The custodial staff is the primary reason this school can operate, they ensure that each building and classroom is up to standard. In the dorms, sometimes they can serve as friend or confidant to a student who is a few miles, and several states away from home. The reason I was inspired to write this oral history project, mainly had to do with my family working as custodial workers for Clemson University. My grandmother, as well as my cousins and aunts dedicated much of their life to keeping Clemson a clean and adequate space for students and faculty to us. I am almost certain their work has gone unnoticed, but I decided to let them tell their stories and what their experience was like as a Black Female Custodial staff member here at Clemson University.
One of the first people interviewed for this project was C.W. C.W. is widowed and has been at Clemson University almost twelve years. Ms. W is a custodial worker in Hardin Hall and ultimately states that she enjoys her jobs. In Hardin Hall you can always see her cleaning the bathrooms, sweeping the floors, and interacting with students and faculty. Sometimes the students are not that interactive and sometimes the morning schedule can get busy, but Ms. W stated that is the only downfall of the job. For the most part she enjoys what she does for a living. Since she is currently still employed, for this project she was granted anonymity. The next person interviewed for this research paper was Cassandra Earle. Ms. Earle is also single, and worked at Clemson almost twenty-two years, the longest out of all interviewees. In Ms. Earle’s interview she stated that her starting salary was only $3.45 an hour, and she only brought home about $200.00 every two weeks. She noted that one of her struggles as a custodial worker came from being mistreated by other black workers. Ms. Earle said that once other black custodial workers were promoted to positions of power that they discriminated against other blacks. Coming into this interview I had a prejudged opinion that most discrimination came from the white faculty or students, but as Ms. Earle clarified it also equally came from other workers who looked just like her. The last interview conducted took place with Mrs. Gloria Earle, sister in law to Cassandra. Mrs. Gloria worked at Clemson University almost 16 years, starting at $6.00 an hour. When she left this past February, she was earning nearly double that. Though her interview was very quick, Mrs. Gloria stated that she enjoyed her as a custodial worker and was treated rather fairly by students and staff. She stated that if she had to be remembered years from now she would want to be known for being an easy to get along with person.
In conclusion, after conducting this project I realized there is so much more to Clemson than its outside views to the world. Clemson is made up of so many different diverse backgrounds of people, people who somehow and some way contribute to bettering the school. If it were not for the labor of black convicts the university would not have been built. If it were not for the labor of our custodial workers Clemson University could not run its everyday tasks. It really takes a village, and the women interviewed were phenomenal in the way they impacted Clemson during their time here. There are still so many more stories to get, but for now these will do.
Parker, Mike. "Average Pay for a Custodial Worker in a Hospital." Work - Chron.com, http://work.chron.com/average-pay-custodial-worker-hospital-6319.html. Accessed 15 December 2018.