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Virginia: Waging peace
The Cavalier Daily
Ajay Chandra

November 9, 2011
View the Original Article

Tomorrow, the Board of Visitors will be meeting to continue its stewardship of our University. With this comes the duty to make sure that the University operates in a manner that is consistent with the core values of our community.

During the last fifteen years, the Living Wage Campaign at the University has worked to make visible the shocking incongruence between those values and the operations of the University. The most grave example of this discord is the treatment of the University’s lowest paid employees. Hundreds of University employees do not earn enough to live with dignity in our community.

One of the most frustrating aspects of this injustice is that there is no question of whether it is within the University’s means to pay all of its employees a living wage. The cost of such a change would be less than one-tenth of one percent of the University’s annual budget; upper estimates indicate it would amount to slightly less than $3 million dollars.

Unfortunately, it is likely that without action the situation will only grow more dire. We can expect to see an increase in the numbers of contracted employees on Grounds, such as those working for ARAMARK. Because contractors are competing to provide the same services at the cheapest price, and because they are held to the federal minimum wage standards rather than the University’s, many contracted workers are paid wages far lower than those received by the University’s own workers.

Additionally, the University willfully stays in the dark when it comes to compensation and benefits to these contracted employees. Many of these contracted employees have worked full-time on Grounds for years and have interacted with students on a daily basis. They, too, deserve a place in our “caring community.”

The University is a world-class institution that prides itself not only on academic excellence, but also on a commitment to producing honorable and engaged public citizens. Yet it is also the largest employer in a city where 20 percent of the residents are living below the federal poverty line. Given these circumstances, it is unacceptable that multiple levels of the administration are shirking responsibility on the issue of a living wage.

The administration’s failure to act, however, does not relieve the student body of its responsibility on this issue. In fact, it only increases the necessity of showing the administration what a caring community truly looks like. The Living Wage Campaign has announced a rally on Thursday, Nov. 10 at 1:30 p.m. on the steps of Old Cabell Hall. Come join us to remind the Board that we are still here. Come to remind students to challenge those who have power at the University. Come to remind workers that we are still on their side.