In this series of articles, the Observer investigates the untold stories of community members’ day-to-day lives.
As Vilorio approaches West Hall at Tufts University, he grins broadly and waves at a passing student. He maintains this cheerful smile throughout his day. Vilorio, a Tufts janitor, works in West Hall Monday through Friday from 7:00 a.m to 12:00 p.m.—a total of 25 hours per week spent on the Medford-Somerville campus. Students might recognize him by his smile, or his black and red flat-brimmed hat, but they probably do not know his story.
Vilorio commutes from Jamaica Plain on the T every morning and arrives at Tufts for the start of his 7:00 a.m. shift. Leaving Tufts after noon, he goes home to relax for a bit before leaving for work again at 4:00 p.m. He works in a nearby hotel kitchen until after 11:00 p.m. and then returns home to sleep until it’s time to commute back to Tufts for his early morning shift. In addition to the forty hours he works per week at the hotel, he picks up night and weekend shifts when he can.
Vilorio came to the US 15 years ago from Santo Domingo, the Dominican Republic. After working in hotels for several years, a friend referred him to Tufts, where he has been working for the past two years. His wife and four children are back at home, where Vilorio visits them each May. “I sacrificed to come here and work to give them a good education,” he says, and it is paying off.
His two older children, ages 26 and 24, have finished their university education and work in the hospitality industry. But for his two younger children, ages 12 and 15, Vilorio says he is “still fighting.” During his visits to Santo Domingo in May, he does work around the house and spends time with his two youngest children. “They do not yet know…” Vilorio starts, chuckling. “[They have] not told me what [they want] to do [when they grow up.]”
Back in Boston, Vilorio feels he lacks family and community, mostly due to his demanding schedule spread between two separate jobs. While students in West Hall occasionally greet Vilorio in passing, which he appreciates, he says this is the extent of his relationships with students due to his 65+ hour work week, and the situation is similar at the hotel. But Vilorio is positive, given the circumstances. “My community here is you all who are supporting us,” he reasons, smiling still.
Vilorio is working for a future, but it’s not his own. “I want to work hard, so that when I can’t [work] anymore I can relax. But at the very least I will be satisfied because I know that my children won’t have to do what I am doing, because I’m fighting for them,” he says, his voice sure and proud.
Fifteen years is a long time to live away from one’s family, but it is a sacrifice Vilorio doesn’t regret. “My way of being is very simple,” he says. “I don’t hang around the streets, I don’t drink. I’m dedicated to my work because this is the goal I set when I left Santo Domingo, to go work to give a better life to my family.”
The Tufts Labor Coalition is hosting a teach-in on Wednesday, November 19th at 8:00 p.m. to inform students about the potential effects of university budget cuts on the jobs of Tufts’ janitors.All photos by Hannah Freedman.