Marino workers seek improved working conditions


Colette Pollauf

A 25-pound weight plate rests on a bench press in Marino Recreational Center. Following an alterncation between a fitness consultant and management that gained attention on Reddit, multiple Marino employees are calling for change.

Rachana Madhav, news correspondent

After a Reddit post titled “Modern day sla*ery at Marino” detailing the mistreatment of Marino employees circulated the Northeastern subreddit, numerous students expressed concern and outrage at the working conditions of Marino’s work-study employees.

The March 31 Reddit post claims working conditions at Marino Recreation Center have “gone down the drain,” and details an incident in which a fitness consultant, or FC, was disciplined for taking a five minute break to purchase a sandwich from Wollaston’s Market. The original author of the post was not the person that this event happened to, however, was someone who spoke with The News. He asked to remain anonymous in fear of losing his job. He was not a witness to the actual event itself, but spoke to the FC following the incident.

“I’m not going to approach [management]. It’s dangerous. I’m looking out for myself too. But the Reddit thread was me voicing out my anger, me throwing out my opinions,” he said.

The post disclosed the FC had woken up at 4 a.m. to work a 5 a.m. opening shift. In the middle of their four-hour long shift, they decided to buy a sandwich from the adjoining Wollaston’s Market. The FC reportedly informed their direct senior coordinator, who is responsible for the FCs, before heading downstairs. 

I’m not going to approach [management]. It’s dangerous. I’m looking out for myself too.

— Anonymous reddit poster

Despite getting approval from the senior coordinator, the employee was still reprimanded by the upper level management for having taken this break. 

The original poster, having heard about what had happened, was agitated about the events that had transpired. 

“You get exhausted after four hours, you’re beat. And you’re not allowed to sit, so it’s even more tiring.” they said. “Building supervisors usually cover for us if we go down and get food, and he must have informed the supervisor, but full time management was like, ‘No, you’re not allowed to get food.’”

Multiple lower level employees at Marino say they must work a set amount of hours before they are allowed a break, however, in the case of many employees who come in for an early shift, they are unable to eat or sit starting from when they began their commute to campus. Many have to sneak their food into their shifts, going so far as to hide out in a locker room and eat a granola bar during a particularly grueling shift. 

Marino management specifies the role the FCs have is an active one, where they are required to take rounds around the gym and tend to any students who need help. This includes spotting, cleaning equipment and keeping track of any equipment used. 

I’ve been told that if I see them sitting, I should take the chairs away from them.

— Anonymous Marino senior coordinator

“There is a good amount of down time. They’re definitely not doing nothing, but they’re not like running around the place — it’s a very controlled environment,” said Armaan Ajoomal, a second-year psychology major who frequents Marino on a daily basis. “There is not a lot for them to do, simply due to the fact that in a gym, what does an employee do other than monitor the area?” 

Another Marino employee, who works as a senior coordinator and would prefer to stay anonymous in fear of professional retaliation, told The News senior coordinators are not allowed to take over shifts for the FCs when they want to get food. 

“I’ve been told that if I see them sitting, I should take the chairs away from them,” the source said in reference to the facility assistants at Marino, who help students with towels and swiping them into the gym itself. 

The Reddit post managed to stir up enough of a disturbance within the inner workings of Marino that the upper management released an internal statement to Marino employees three days after the post was published, according to employees who spoke to The News. 

According to Massachusetts law, employees are allowed to have a 15 minute paid break if their shifts go over four continuous hours — this is also listed in the Marino employee handbook

According to the senior coordinator, senior level management stated the four to six hour standard is a law Marino upholds, but it’s up to the employee and supervisor to manage this and determine when it is a good time to take that break. 

When asked to respond to the Reddit post’s accusations that Marino workers are not given adequate breaks or time to eat during a shift, a spokesperson for Northeastern Athletics told The News the department found the claims to be baseless.

Matthew Houde, Northeastern’s associate athletic director of communications, provided a written statement to the News: 

“The Department of Athletics and Recreation has looked into this matter thoroughly and found no evidence to support these allegations,” said Houde. “The Department has reinforced its messaging with its management team regarding appropriate breaks when student employees work beyond their normal three-hour work shifts in hopes of avoiding a miscommunication in the future. We value our student employees and appreciate all of their hard work.” 

The anonymous senior coordinator refuted Houde’s statement, arguing there was in fact evidence that this had happened as they were a witness to the event itself, but agreed that the department did reinforce its message about appropriate breaks following the circulation of the Reddit post.

In addition to claiming the FCs are treated poorly, the source described the hiring process at Marino as also in need of major improvement. 

“The supervisors who work at Marino are previous ground level employees who are picked according to their work ethic and experience,” they said. Just last fall, Northeastern revamped the training course that they require the potential Marino worker applicants to take. 

Applicants “were made to take a course — it’s an eight-week long course — where once a week there are lecture-style meetings about different factual information about the course and doing customer service type practice,” the source said. 

In addition, they must learn emergency care such as CPR to ensure the safety of students at Marino.

However, the source informed the News that the rigorous required training was entirely unpaid. 

“In all of the communications between the management and the applicants, nowhere did it say that it was unpaid,” the anonymous senior coordinator said.

In the state of Massachusetts, job training must be paid, unless a worker does not officially have the position yet, in which case, it is defined as “personal enrichment.”

According to the anonymous senior coordinator, Marino management made use of a loophole, where they would choose candidates from the initial pool of applicants they wanted, admit them into the training course, but make it clear to them they did not technically have the job until they complete the training, so they were not required to pay them.

This lack of payment for a job that requires more training than most applicants had bargained for frustrated multiple workers who need this job to pay rent and make ends meet in the city, according to the anonymous senior coordinator. 

“Most of the workers are international students. They kinda just go by what management says,” the Reddit poster said. “Some of them have a language barrier, you can kinda see it, where they don’t really communicate well to management. They’re scared of losing their job, this is the only on-campus job they could find.” 

International students in general have voiced their discontent with the way Northeastern has been treating them. They have organized unions and have made signs around campus calling for change.

“It goes to a bigger issue — it’s not just exclusive to Marino and the FCs, but rather, it’s a bigger issue that is prevalent in America as a whole,” Ajoomal said, when asked about how international student workers are treated. “We definitely have a xenophobic attitude here, and a lot of people don’t want to admit it.”

The relationship between workers and their supervisors at Marino has been tense, according to the Reddit poster. Most workers at Marino are not willing to speak up, afraid of losing their only source of income. The original poster claims the university does not appreciate their employees enough, and it is evident in their treatment of them.

“Unless you want to sit on equipment, there is no other place to sit. I would like to see a chair [at Marino],” the original poster said. “If all else fails, that is my topmost priority. It’s just two chairs, it’s not going to cost them that much.”