This year marks the 10th anniversary of the university’s implementation of the Just Employment Policy, a comprehensive agreement that ensures fair and competitive compensation packages for full-time campus workers.
Under the policy, the university has incrementally increased compensation for full-time contracted workers every two years over the last decade, reaching the minimum total compensation requirement of $16.45 per hour this January, compared to the local minimum wage of $10.50.
In addition to its wage policy, the document also recognizes existing negotiated union agreements, ensures the right to a safe and harassment-free work environment, provides workers with access to university resources such as English as a Second Language classes and permits workers to unionize without intimidation or delay.
The policy applies to both workers directly employed by the university and those employed by university contractors, such as Aramark, Epicurean and Company and Follett.
The policy is overseen by the Advisory Committee on Business Practices under the Office of Public Affairs, comprised of nine administrators and faculty members, including Associate Dean of Student Affairs Dennis Williams, McDonough School of Business professor Robert J. Bies and sociology professor Leslie Hinkson and one student, Caleb Weaver (SFS ’16). Members are appointed by the university on two-year terms.
The university enacted the policy in 2005 after repeated demonstrations by the Georgetown Solidarity Committee, which culminated in an eight-day hunger strike by 25 students in early 2005.
In commemoration of the policy’s anniversary, the Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor hosted a series of three panels in Riggs Library last Thursday to discuss the origins, impact and future of the policy.
The initiative, founded in 2009, organizes projects such as educational programs for laborers and opportunities for students to participate in public policy research with professors on labor economics.
At the event, Vice President for Public Affairs Erik Smulson (CAS ’89) said the policy ensures that university business practices align with Jesuit values.
“The Just Employment Policy is really a commitment from the university to social justice and for the common good. It is very true to who we are as a university and the respect we have for the dignity of all humans and those in the workplace,” Smulson said.
KILWP Executive Director Joseph A. McCartin also said the anniversary marks an opportunity for the university to reflect on the policy.
“We look at our Just Employment Policy at Georgetown as a really great model that we hopefully can generalize and make applicable to other university settings,” McCartin said. “Part of this event was to mark what we have done over the past 10 years … but part of it was to think about what we could do better, and then to think about how we might spread this kind of idea.”
Recently, the policy has increased its influence outside of Georgetown. In the past two years, students at John Carroll University, Brandeis University and Loyola University Chicago have proposed to implement the Just Employment Policy on their campuses.
In October, McCartin represented the KILWP in a discussion of the policy’s benefits at the Summit on Worker Voice in the White House.
According to Senior Adviser to the President for Faculty Relations Lisa Krim, the administration recognizes that the policy has room for expansion in the future.
“Although a union structure only encompasses the part time faculty on our campus, we did spend time after the negotiation working directly with our full-time, non-tenured faculty to set up career tracks for them in ways to recognize the contributions that that group is entitled to,” Krim said. “So the work continues, some of it is in the union context and some of it is outside the union context, but it is all based on the same goals: respect, inclusion and really the pursuit of our mission.”
Over the past decade, university employees have used the policy numerous times to exercise their rights. In March 2011, workers at O’Donovan Hall, Cosi and Starbucks, all operated by Aramark, cited the policy in their process to unionize under UNITEHERE, a local union. Adjunct professors also used the policy in their negotiation to unionize under Local 500 of the Service Employees International Union in October 2014.
Most recently, Aramark workers cited the policy to negotiate a fair process for unionization and improved work and wage conditions at Leo’s, Hoya Court and the Georgetown University Hotel and Conference Center.
In an interview with The Hoya, Sam Geaney-Moore (SFS ’12), a former member of GSC and current representative of UNITEHERE Local 23, said that the policy only holds weight if enacted by the community. Geaney-Moore assisted Aramark workers in their contract renegotiation process.
“The Just Employment Policy is a powerful tool for workers, students and professors to use to protect the rights of everyone who works on campus. However, it is a tool, not a solution by itself,” Geaney-Moore said. “Students and workers must organize to promote justice for everyone who works at the university.”
Dante Crestwell, a warehouse receiver at Leo’s, said that prior to unionization, Aramark discouraged its workers from unionizing.
“You couldn’t even use the word ‘union’ and your name in the same sentence and not be called into a manager’s office,” Crestwell said. “People would get their raises at the time of the economic downturn and it was like a 6-cent or a 12-cent raise. A penny a month.”
According to Crestwell, once the university reminded Aramark of its responsibility to abide by the Just Employment Policy in an open letter, worker conditions improved.
“All of a sudden, this letter from Georgetown came about Just Employment Policy and Jesuit values and Aramark was like, ‘We can make this work, we can be friends,’” Crestwell said. “Without us unionizing, it would be a 90 percent turnover [in employees] at Leo’s.”
Kerry Danner-McDonald, an adjunct in the theology department, also said the policy was effective in pushing for the unionization of adjunct professors. Although adjunct professors are not entitled to higher wages under the policy, as they are not full-time employees, the policy allows them to assemble and unionize.
“Part of the benefit of organizing is realizing that you are making a difference and recognizing that the system is unjust and doing something about it. And I think for many of us it allows us to retain our integrity while we continue to do a job that is exploitive,” Danner-McDonald said.
Danner-McDonald agreed that the Just Employment Policy can do more to support part-time employees.
“I think one of the challenges of the Just Employment Policy is that it articulates a living wage for full-time employees, but we are not full-time,” Danner-McDonald said.
At the KILWP event, Weaver, the only student on the ABCP, said that students should engage with workers beyond expressing gratitude.
“I am sure workers have 100 people telling them, ‘You are a valued part of this community,’ but it means a lot more … when workers see students doing more than saying that, and really [live] out that statement [by] putting in the work to prove that it is true,” Weaver said.
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