After arrest, former staff member and others to continue worker advocacy
Jim McCabe, the former AU employee who was arrested on campus by Public Safety Wednesday afternoon while petitioning for service worker benefits, was held in D.C. police custody for two and half hours.
McCabe was in the Terrace Dining Room handing out flyers about the lack of benefits for contracted workers when Public Safety officers, accompanied by Metropolitan Police, arrested him around 1 p.m., The Eagle previously reported. As students watched, snapped pictures and took video, McCabe was led in handcuffs to an MPD van.
His staff profile page on the University’s website was still available as of 2 p.m. on Wednesday, but has since been taken down. AU Director of Public Relations Kelly Alexander did not return requests for comment on this story in time for publication.
“They charged me for unlawful entry,” McCabe said, “which is very strange because I paid for my lunch when I entered, I didn't just bust in. I don’t understand how my entry is illegal if I paid for my lunch.”
Since AU does not have facilities to hold arrestees, McCabe was held at the Second District MPD building, MPD spokesperson Sean Hickman said. He was released at 3:43 p.m. with a citation.
McCabe was also in TDR on Monday, handing out flyers showing the disparities in benefits for service workers compared with other AU staff and faculty. Employees for TDR, housekeeping and other dining establishments are hired by contractor Aramark — not the University.
Within an hour, McCabe said 65 students signed up for his email list which he said will be used to keep subscribers updated about future activism.
“I had really good response and feedback from the students,” McCabe said. “Students were lined up to sign the email list.”
When McCabe returned to TDR on Wednesday to continue giving out materials, he said he did not expect to be apprehended.
“An AU dining services manager asked me to leave, but the Aramark manager never asked me,” McCabe said. “When the director of security came down, he said that the manager of the dining hall asked me to leave, but that's not true. It was the University people that wanted me out of there.”
On both Monday and Wednesday McCabe said he paid for his entry into TDR and ate after speaking with students.
McCabe started working at AU in 1999. In his first three years at AU, he worked as a technology assistant while also serving one of those years as an adjunct professor in education. Over the next twelve years, McCabe worked as the AU Blackboard manager, the classroom workflow technology system AU professors use. McCabe retired in 2014.
In July, McCabe met with TDR workers and other AU professors, along with Carlos Vera, an AU student who spearheaded the #ExploitedWonk campaign, and Student Worker Alliance, a student-run worker advocacy organization, Vera said.
In discussions with TDR workers, Vera and McCabe discovered that employees who had been working for 30 or 40 years had 10,000 dollars in their retirement accounts and could not afford to retire. Marriott, the first subcontractor for AU Dining starting in the 1980s through the ‘90s, did not provide retirement funds to workers.
“One of the workers started crying. She had been working here for 40 years and can’t retire because she doesn’t have enough money,” Vera said. “She can’t live off her social security. That was the first time I had heard these stories.”
Vera, McCabe, the Student Worker Alliance and #ExploitedWonk are working to put more pressure on the AU administration and Aramark to give the workers the retirement contributions they did not receive under Marriott. In the meantime, Vera said students can help by attending a worker speak out on Tuesday and other advocacy events, as well as treating the workers with respect on a day-to-day basis.
“First thing is to acknowledge the workers, reach out to them, start viewing them like human beings, not just servers,” Vera said. “We can make their jobs much easier. When you are done eating, clean your shit up.”
Eagle staff writer Cuneyt Dil contributed to this report.