Johns Hopkins Leads The COVID-19 Response, But Just Laid Off Its Low-Wage Workers

May 5, 2020

At a May Day rally, workers said Johns Hopkins University reneged on a commitment to give laid off workers four weeks pay.

At a May Day rally, workers said Johns Hopkins University reneged on a commitment to give laid off workers four weeks pay.


Workers protest layoffs at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. Cameron Granadino/TRNN

Story Transcript

This is a rush transcript and may contain errors. It will be updated.

Speaker 1: Please know we’re out here today not begging for anything. These workers hold these buildings down at LeBron Hall, Fresh Food Cafe, Charles Street Market, Nolan’s, Peabody and The Lab. They hold this place down. They feed these students. They continue to feed these students. They risk their lives every single day. Gloria Huggins.

Crowd: Is an essential worker.

Speaker 1: Gregory Power.

Crowd: Is an essential worker. [crosstalk 00:00:31]

Jaisal: On May 1st, workers at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore staged a socially distance protest reading the names of the 188 cafeteria workers laid off due to the coronavirus pandemic, and say the school promised to give the workers four weeks pay, something the university disputes.

Speaker 1: You committed to help your coworkers in this time of need to give them four weeks pay. And just a few days ago, John Hopkins University reneged on their promise. Jeffrey Allen.

Crowd: Is an essential worker.

Speaker 1: Out here with us today, Janika Hudson.

Crowd: Is an essential worker.

Jaisal: In a statement Johns Hopkins said, while they remained committed to their workforce, they can’t pay their laid off workers because it could jeopardize their eligibility for federal stimulus payments. Hopkins, which has been on the forefront of the global response to the pandemic, is projecting a hundred million dollar loss this year. Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, its endowment was worth approximately $6 billion in 2019. The workers represented by Unite Here Local seven are predominantly African American. Hopkins announced the creation of a relief fund last week to “provide financial support for displaced contract workers and employees facing COVID-19 related hardships.” Unite Here Local seven president Roxy Herbeckian says Hopkins hasn’t responded to workers’ demands for weeks and says workers would not lose eligibility for federal stimulus payments if the university paid their workers as they had promised.

Speaker 1: We are essential. We are essential. We are essential. We are essential.

Jaisal: With Cameron Granadino, this is Jaisal Noor in Baltimore.