You should not be satisfied
You should not be satisfied. As you may have read in Chancellor Wrighton’s recent campus-wide e-mail, the administration has ordered the formation of a task force charged with reviewing the University’s outsourcing policies.While we, the Student Worker Alliance (SWA), are encouraged by this action, we ultimately find it insufficient and must consider it as only a preliminary step.The task force is not optimal to adequately address worker-related issues, because it does not encompass the full-range of voices within the Washington University and St. Louis community.Neither service workers nor community labor experts have any representation on the force. Also, the deadline for recommendations to the administration has been set at July 1, 2004, in order to correspond with the fiscal year.Unfortunately, this deadline ignores the academic year in the process, and continues forward in the absence of students.But workers’ rights issues at this university do not correspond with the fiscal year, and must not be lost among paperwork and bureaucratic formalities.The concerns of our service workers deserve attention now, and the task force cannot be the only means of taking action to improve their lives.
Currently, the Student Worker Alliance, not officially represented by this task force, is working to implement a living wage for all workers on Wash U’s campus. A living wage can be defined as the minimum pay rate necessary to keep an individual and his or her family above the federal poverty level. If workers are paid at a rate that is significantly below the cost of living in St. Louis, these individuals and their families may continue to be trapped in a cycle of poverty. If we are to be consistent with our University’s mission, “to be an exemplary institution in our home community of St. Louis, as well as in the nation and in the world,” we must set the example of treating all of the members of our community with respect and justice and not continue contributing to the cycle of poverty. It is essential that everyone in the Washington University community act as an advocate for campus service workers in the living wage matter, assessing current salaries and benefits and ensuring that none is forced to accept poverty wages.
This is one step in the SWA’s mission of improving the welfare and helping to better integrate workers into our community. We focus on research and outreach to the community, campus, and workers. We avidly believe in the necessity of improving the salaries, benefits, and work environment for all employees at our university. As a first step in implementing a living wage at Washington University, we proposed to the administration, on January 29th, a committee that would “evaluate and implement a living wage policy at Washington University. The board should have binding policy-making power to enforce the policy and should be compromised of students, faculty, workers, labor experts and administrators. We ask that this board be created immediately and that it be charged with creating an implementation strategy by no later then April 1, 2004.” To our disappointment, the administration has not carried through with our demand. While it may seem like this SWA demand and the University’s task force are similar, the task force was unilaterally appointed by the administration, which leaves the voices of those who it most affects absent. The SWA seeks to be a true alliance and help make the voices of the workers be heard. WU stands for a diverse, open community, so why doesn’t it invite all members to participate in this discussion?
We challenge you to not be satisfied. Think about how you interact with the workers who serve you everyday. Realize the potential that you have to make their day better or worse. We challenge you to go out of your way to do something to improve the lives of the people who work so hard to make our lives as students easier.
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