Category Archives: Highlighted
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 here.
In an e-mail to the UVa community following the Living Wage hunger strike in February of this year, University Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Michael Strine committed to “begin to gather information on key contracting and trends, which will help us better manage and communicate to the Board of Visitors regarding our reliance on contracted partners that support and advance our mission.”
This is a step that the Living Wage Campaign heartily commends. However, the manner in which Mr. Strine states this commitment is vague. To help Mr. Strine keep his promise, we of the Living Wage campaign have drafted the following two measures for implementing this commitment. In truth, auditing contractors is an incredibly basic step in ensuring good labor practices at UVA, and one that is only meaningful in the context of broader action. We demand that the University confront its long and shameful history of slave labor, underpaid labor, and poor community relations with the simple step of ensuring what we call ‘a living wage’ for all employees, both those directly employed by UVA, and those employed through contractors like Aramark. We demand that by March 1, 2013, Mr. Strine and the UVa administration do the following:
1) The University must exercise its existing right to audit contractors in a meaningful way. The University must obtain information on employee compensation, including wages and benefit information, for all contracted workers on grounds. This must be cross-referenced with information on the race and gender of contract employees in order to verify compliance with federal anti-discrimination laws meant to protect against ‘separate and unequal’ employment. All contracts should include a clause requiring contractors to provide this information on an annual basis.
2) The University must make all of this information freely available to the public by publishing it online.