Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Letters regarding story on WFF Custodians from Seattle U, WFF and The Spectator

Dear Editor:

We were both surprised and concerned by the allegations made in The Spectator relating to WFF custodians. WFF Facility Services is recognized as a reputable contractor for colleges and universities and a contractor we have had a strong working relationship with for more than 20 years. SU’s facilities team and others have found WFF leaders aligned with our values and safety standards. They have had a history of being very responsive when we have brought issues to their attention.

We take the issues raised in the article very seriously. We immediately contacted leaders at WFF to ask that they conduct a full investigation into the allegations and issues raised. They informed us at that time that they had already launched an investigation.

WFF then shared findings from their investigation with us. Their findings revealed inaccuracies in the reporting and information, and provided additional context and facts that refute the narrative and allegations in the article.

WFF expressed particular concern that they were not given the opportunity to respond to the specific allegations that were the basis for the reporting in the article, which is counter to the standards and practices they work hard to maintain with their employees.

Seattle U expects all vendors and contractors we do business with to uphold our ethics and standards. University officials work hard to build strong relationships with our outside partners to ensure there is a practice of continuous feedback and evaluation in place. This includes ensuring everyone working at SU feels valued, safe and welcomed, whether they are hired by the university or employed by our contractors.

Connie Kanter, CFO/Sr. Vice President for Finance and Business Affairs

Michelle Clements, Vice President for Human Resources

Robert Schwartz, Associate Vice President for Facilities


Re: Invisible for Too Many: Custodians Win First Union Contract (published 5/16/2018)

Dear Mr. Turner:

I was extremely disappointed upon reviewing the article referenced above. As you likely know, I agreed to an interview by Ms. Kaplan. Unfortunately, though this endeavor presented your reporter the opportunity to seek WFF’s position regarding a number of rather specific allegations, no such effort was made. As a result, the Spectator published a spate of accusations against the Company that we know have no factual basis.

I expect you understand that the Company is not at liberty to discuss the particulars of its employee’s medical conditions with third parties -certainly not on the record for publication. That said, had WFF received an opportunity to address the false and misleading accusations regarding workplace injuries, the treatment of injured workers, and unreasonable work assignments that the Spectator ultimately published as “facts,” the Company could have, at a minimum, offered an express denial and provided information relevant to the policies, procedures, and other safeguards WFF applies to address workplace injuries and the accommodation of individuals with temporarily or permanently disabling conditions.

Moreover, Ms. Kaplan neglected to accurately report the information I provided regarding WFF’s staffing, work assignments, and the performance in accordance with the University’s service standards. For example, during my interview I advised Ms. Kaplan that WFF staffs its evening crew with a team of 35 and that anywhere from two to five team members may  call in sick on  any given night. Somehow, Ms. Kaplan managed to twist this rather straightforward assessment of periodic sick leave utilization to the point of being nonsensical.

The story inaccurately reports that on any given night “crew might be down to just two to five workers” as a result of employe call-outs. This irresponsible reporting leaves the reader with the misguided impression that WFF routinely

Specializing in Providing Custodial, Grounds and Physical Plant Services to Colleges and Universities operates with a mere fraction of the manpower necessary to perform the work at hand.

The foregoing example reflects but one of many grossly inaccurate statements included in the story due to either the reporters’ failure to allow WFF to respond to the specific allegations levied or their failure to accurately report the factual information I provided to in the course of my interview. As the Spectator has already published its story, it would serve no useful purpose to engage in a point-by-point refutation of the myriad inaccuracies, misstatements, and false statements contained therein. The damage  has already  been done. It suffices to say WFF categorically denies the allegations and inferences contained in Ms. Kaplan and Mr. Downing’s story.

For over 20 years, WFF’s team members have done an outstanding job at Seattle University. Mutual courtesy and respect thrives at WFF; it is what sets us apart from our competitors. While we do not claim to be perfect, we can confidently state the work environment described in May 16 article reflects neither an accurate representation of our operations at Seattle University nor how our mission and values are applied at the other institutions we serve across the United States.


Ricardo Moreno, Vice President-Human Resources


Thank you for the responses to our article “‘Invisible for too Many:’ Custodians Win First Union Contract,” and to WFF Custodial Services for swiftly opening an investigation into the allegations brought forth in the article. Both of the letters to the editor can be read in full on the Spectator’s website.

While we were happy to hear about the investigation, we believe it is essential that Seattle University conducts its own impartial investigation—ideally led by an external auditor—into these claims. WFF should not be allowed to exonerate themselves without a transparent and comprehensive investigation into their practices and the claims communicated directly to us by the workers themselves.

It is also essential that the custodians and their union, SEIU Local 6, are involved in this process so that their voices are not silenced like they have been for so long.

This is essential to ensure the safety of our custodians. Furthermore, this investigation will ensure that WFF, as a contractor, is truly living up to the Jesuit values of our university.

We are troubled by the language in the letter from Seattle U’s administration, which asserts that WFF’s investigation “revealed inaccuracies in the reporting and information, and provided additional context and facts that refute the narrative and allegations in the article.” It seems as though WFF’s investigation was rooted in refuting our article and not in reaching out to their employees about the stories and allegations they shared.

We gave WFF multiple chances to respond at length to the allegations brought forth. We believe we accurately and fairly represented the information Mr. Moreno presented during the interview. However, it is difficult to refute his attempts to slander our credibility due to the fact that he requested the interview not be recorded. We will be sure to record all future interviews with Mr. Moreno.

With that said, we want to extend our apologies to Mr. Moreno for misstating the number of employees who may be off duty on a given night due to sick leave. The original version stated, “Moreno explained that because of this, on any given evening, the night crew might be down to just two to five workers.” The updated version reads “Moreno explained that because of this, on any given evening, the night crew might be down anywhere from two to five workers.” The corrected version has been updated on our website. The Spectator deeply regrets this error.

We would like to emphasize that, contrary to the statements from Mr. Moreno and the university administration, we reached out multiple times and across several days via email, phone and in-person to WFF’s on-site employee, Director of Custodial Services Luke Wiltshire, only to be met with no comment or response.

We spoke to nine WFF custodians who work on Seattle U’s campus, along with their union representatives, and all nine recounted—on the record—injuries, understaffing and problems with insurance. For WFF to say that the company “categorically denies the allegations and inferences contained” in our story is an injustice to the bravery and resilience of their employees. It invalidates the words they spoke with courage that are attached to their name and stand in direct opposition to their employer.

The Spectator stands by its reporting. We sincerely hope that, instead of pointing fingers at student journalists, WFF Custodial Services and the Seattle University administration will examine their treatment of the university’s most vulnerable employees. It is through this honest, and sometimes painful, examination that university leadership can make tangible policy changes to ensure the safety and well-being of their workers, whether they are contracted employees or not.

Anna Kaplan and Alec Downing, News Editor and Staff Writer

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