Student activists at the university of Washington moved to occupy the UW Medicine Administration offices this week to protest the privatization of the medical school’s laundry services.

Members of United Students Against Sweatshops occupied UW Medicine CEO Paul Ramsey’s office. The protest consisted of 19 students sitting-in the office while more than 150 rallied in solidarity with the more than 100 workers who could lose union jobs with the move.

The at-risk workforce consists predominantly of working class immigrants, women and people of color. The student group released a press release, recounting how they “have performed a vital public service to the university for as long as 40 years, and some even have students at the UW.”

Workers at UW Consolidated Laundry provide their services to Harborview Medical Center, Northwest Hospital, UW Medical Center, and the UW Neighborhood Clinics in the form of cleaning patient linens and medical scrubs.

On January 5, workers at the UW Laundry were informed that the school of medicine was experiencing a $75 million operating deficit and, as part of its recovery plan, they are closing the UW Consolidated Laundry. Instead, UW plans to issue a request for proposals to replace these 100-plus unionized jobs with privatized contracted positions.

Student activists demanded the university to “immediately halt its union-busting, contracting out practices, and not issue a Request for Proposals that could privatize UW Medicine’s Consolidated Laundry.”

After three hours and with more than 200 students involved in the protest, the movement disbanded peacefully. No member of administration met with members of the student group.

Corina Isabel Yballa,  junior environmental studies major, supported the workers.

“These are our community members and we will not stand to see them deprived of their livelihoods. I have met these workers and they are the most hardworking and good people imaginable,” she said in the release. “They are strong, brave, and they care for each other like a family would. Not only that, but they provide vital services that our university profits from, services that make medical center operations run smoothly each and every day so that UW can continue to provide its top tier medical care. To treat their labor and their lives as disposable is an absolute disgrace to all our university is supposed to stand for.”