Josh Zumbrun’s recent column (“`Waging’ A War of Two Worlds,” THE HOYA, Feb. 15, 2005, A3) seemingly offers real solutions to the problems facing Georgetown’s wage-earning workers. Indeed, learning new skills and speaking English are absolutely necessary for advancing into higher paying jobs.

But we would like to ask Zumbrun exactly when and how he thinks workers can get an education when so many work one full-time job, one part-time job and sleep only four hours every day.

In order for workers to be able to receive more training and learn new language and technical skills, they must have more free time. They must also be alert and ready to learn. Paying workers enough to live on for one full-time job is the first step, and that is the primary goal of the Living Wage Campaign.

A Living Wage is merely enough to live on – it is in no way an extravagant salary. It does not allow for savings. It is based on the cost of basic necessities in the Washington, D.C. area: food, rent, transportation, health care and child care. A wage of $14.93 is the total compensation for one hour of work, including benefits. Workers would never actually see the amount of $14.93 on their paychecks, so wages are not jumping another $6.43 as Zumbrun suggests.

Zumbrun states that a worker must move up to an “$11.00 an hour job that trains him with a new skill or teaches him English which he can then use to get a $17.00 an hour job.” Why can’t a Georgetown job be that job? Why can’t Georgetown pay such a wage and give workers the chance to learn English and other skills?

What Zumbrun seems to want is exactly what the Living Wage Campaign advocates. We cannot understand why Zumbrun claims that a Living Wage would trap people, when he so readily states that a worker making $11.00 an hour could one day move towards a $17.00 an hour job; a Living Wage enables Georgetown workers to make enough to live, learn new skills and then if they choose, move away from custodial labor.

We must also address Zumbrun’s idea for English language classes. In past years, student initiatives were so strong that they evolved into what is now the Parent Program run by the D.C. Schools Project. A recent informal program with subcontracted workers faded – precisely because the workers were too tired to come to class.

In spring 2004, students working in conjunction with the Office of Student Housing and the Facilities Office established the Student-Worker Education Program, an initiative that allowed the workers one hour of time during their work day to receive English language training. This highly successful program culminated with a graduation ceremony for the workers at which even their managers praised them for their progress.

In fall 2004, students again began to plan the program for the semester, but the administrators who had helped to begin the program dropped the ball. Students and workers were assured that the program would return for the spring semester.

This semester’s language classes were slated to begin this Feb. 7. But due to textbook delays and errors in scheduling, they were delayed. Neither workers nor students can comprehend why such a successful program, heralded by workers, managers and administrators alike, would be stalled.

Zumbrun claims that such education programs should be institutionalized and we would like to clarify that they have not been established because of resistance from Georgetown administrators, not because students or the Solidarity Committee do not prioritize education programs.

How can a worker-student English program be institutionalized if the Office of Volunteer and Public Service is busy running other programs off-campus and if Georgetown administrators stall the program?

Implementing a Living Wage policy at Georgetown would not force workers into “indentured servitude” as Zumbrun so eloquently claims. Rather, it is precisely what needs to happen so that workers have opportunities to improve and are no longer surrounded by the gross economic injustices that currently pervade this Jesuit institution.

We must continue to demand that this university adhere to the socially just standards on which it was founded by providing its workers with a Living Wage.

Kara Mahoney is a sophomore in the College, coordinator of the Student-Worker Education Program Coordinator and a member of the Georgetown Solidarity Committee. Andres Salvador is a facilities worker for the Special Events Staff.

Josh Zumbrun’s recent column (“`Waging’ A War of Two Worlds,” THE HOYA, Feb. 15, 2005, A3) seemingly offers real solutions to the problems facing Georgetown’s wage-earning workers. Indeed, learning new skills and speaking English are absolutely necessary for advancing into higher paying jobs.

But we would like to ask Zumbrun exactly when and how he thinks workers can get an education when so many work one full-time job, one part-time job and sleep only four hours every day.

In order for workers to be able to receive more training and learn new language and technical skills, they must have more free time. They must also be alert and ready to learn. Paying workers enough to live on for one full-time job is the first step, and that is the primary goal of the Living Wage Campaign.

A Living Wage is merely enough to live on – it is in no way an extravagant salary. It does not allow for savings. It is based on the cost of basic necessities in the Washington, D.C. area: food, rent, transportation, health care and child care. A wage of $14.93 is the total compensation for one hour of work, including benefits. Workers would never actually see the amount of $14.93 on their paychecks, so wages are not jumping another $6.43 as Zumbrun suggests.

Zumbrun states that a worker must move up to an “$11.00 an hour job that trains him with a new skill or teaches him English which he can then use to get a $17.00 an hour job.” Why can’t a Georgetown job be that job? Why can’t Georgetown pay such a wage and give workers the chance to learn English and other skills?

What Zumbrun seems to want is exactly what the Living Wage Campaign advocates. We cannot understand why Zumbrun claims that a Living Wage would trap people, when he so readily states that a worker making $11.00 an hour could one day move towards a $17.00 an hour job; a Living Wage enables Georgetown workers to make enough to live, learn new skills and then if they choose, move away from custodial labor.

We must also address Zumbrun’s idea for English language classes. In past years, student initiatives were so strong that they evolved into what is now the Parent Program run by the D.C. Schools Project. A recent informal program with subcontracted workers faded – precisely because the workers were too tired to come to class.

In spring 2004, students working in conjunction with the Office of Student Housing and the Facilities Office established the Student-Worker Education Program, an initiative that allowed the workers one hour of time during their work day to receive English language training. This highly successful program culminated with a graduation ceremony for the workers at which even their managers praised them for their progress.

In fall 2004, students again began to plan the program for the semester, but the administrators who had helped to begin the program dropped the ball. Students and workers were assured that the program would return for the spring semester.

This semester’s language classes were slated to begin this Feb. 7. But due to textbook delays and errors in scheduling, they were delayed. Neither workers nor students can comprehend why such a successful program, heralded by workers, managers and administrators alike, would be stalled.

Zumbrun claims that such education programs should be institutionalized and we would like to clarify that they have not been established because of resistance from Georgetown administrators, not because students or the Solidarity Committee do not prioritize education programs.

How can a worker-student English program be institutionalized if the Office of Volunteer and Public Service is busy running other programs off-campus and if Georgetown administrators stall the program?

Implementing a Living Wage policy at Georgetown would not force workers into “indentured servitude” as Zumbrun so eloquently claims. Rather, it is precisely what needs to happen so that workers have opportunities to improve and are no longer surrounded by the gross economic injustices that currently pervade this Jesuit institution.

We must continue to demand that this university adhere to the socially just standards on which it was founded by providing its workers with a Living Wage.

Kara Mahoney is a sophomore in the College, coordinator of the Student-Worker Education Program Coordinator and a member of the Georgetown Solidarity Committee. Andres Salvador is a facilities worker for the Special Events Staff.

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