Today, the finance committee of the Board of Virginia adopted its new budget for the upcoming fiscal year. The base wage for the University’s lowest-paid direct employees was raised slightly, from $10.65 an hour to $11.30 an hour.
While the Living Wage Campaign commends this small step in the right direction, we maintain that the University needs to make a firm commitment to pay all of its employees a living wage indexed to inflation. The University administration and the Board of Visitors have yet to meaningfully address the issue of contract labor at the University. Contract employees often do the same type of labor as direct employees – performing core functions such as house-cleaning and food service, without which the University cannot function – but these contract employees can be paid as little as the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. The University has thus far chosen not to exercise its right to audit the companies to whom they contract out their labor, thus rendering contract workers officially invisible to the administration. These contract workers perform jobs that are vital to the University’s operations, but the University refuses to recognize them as members of the much-touted “caring community,” or to grant them equal pay for equal work.
In part, the University’s official statement on its new budget reads as follows: “The University of Virginia recognizes that people are its biggest investment, responsible for delivering excellence in teaching, research and patient care.” Teaching, research, and patient care are indeed important functions of the University; however, they would not be possible without the essential labor provided by the University’s lowest-paid employees, including contract employees. The Living Wage Campaign calls on the University of Virginia to recognize that all of the people employed by the University, including contract workers, are worthy of investment. We realize that the University’s budget is constrained by a number of factors; however, the fact remains that budgets are documents which reflect moral priorities. The Living Wage Campaign will continue to pressure the University and the Board of Visitors until the University’s lowest-paid employees, both direct and contract, are made a priority.
Read the University’s entire statement on the new budget