OSWEGO — Directly along the eastern shore of Lake Ontario, the SUNY Oswego campus not only gets an immense amount of lake-effect snow, but the sub-zero winds blowing off the lake can cut like a knife.

“It can be very brutal,” says Lonna Orta, a CSEA member who works as a janitor in the campus’ Hewitt Student Union building.

Orta’s duties include snow blowing and shoveling the sidewalks and entrances all the way around the building. Sometimes she and other janitorial staff spend an eight-hour shift just circling around a few campus buildings clearing snow, as it keeps coming.

The cold, though, is another huge challenge for her and her co-workers.

“If it’s below zero [degrees], we take warmup breaks when we need to, and we make sure we dress properly,” she said.

That includes wearing her bright pink snowpants, gloves, a hat or hood and her heavy jacket. Even bundled under all that winter gear, the cold can be biting.

“The blowing snow — it freezes to your face,” she said. “Your eyelashes freeze. It’s bitter cold and you can feel the sting in your face.”

Yet Orta and her co-workers continue to work outside to clear the walks.
“We need to make sure no one slips and falls,” she said.

— Mark M. Kotzin


About Author

Mark Kotzin has been passionately advocating on behalf of workers in CSEA's Central Region for more than 29 years, directing our Union's regional communications and public relations initiatives, helping build power on behalf of more than 45,000 active and retired union members throughout 20 counties in Central New York. Mark is a proud graduate of Leadership Greater Syracuse, a 12+ gallon blood donor, and a passionate advocate for building workers' power through collective action!

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