Georgetown’s mission statement calls on us to live generously in service to others, but our university pays its subcontracted workers poverty wages. How is this in line with our commitment to justice and the common good?

I’m sick of hearing Georgetown’s financial crisis cited as a reason why we cannot commit to a living wage. Georgetown can and must find a way to stop paying poverty wages. If we can find the money to hire celebrity professors such as George Tenet or muster $15 million to build a new boat house, we can find the money to put Georgetown’s Jesuit ideals into practice.

This is our moral and social obligation to our workers and to ourselves as students at a Catholic and Jesuit institution. We must compensate our employees at a level that allows them to provide for themselves and their families without falling into poverty.

My father, a Georgetown graduate and avid Bush voter, is the president of a system of Catholic hospitals in Kansas City, Mo., that has implemented a living wage for all of its employees. He recognizes the fact that institutions can run into financial barriers, but to him this is not a reason to make excuses, but rather an opportunity for creativity. Consistent with Catholic social teaching, one creative plan that my dad has implemented is called the “Vincentian Option.” My father proposed to his board that his salary be capped in relation to the lowest paid worker.

In our society, we look to the marketplace to determine whether someone is being paid a fair salary, with the inference that paying someone less than this determined amount is unfair. With executives, this can become very self-serving as their high salaries inflate more rapidly with annual increases and grow more out-of-line with that of the average worker.

In this country, some CEOs in big companies make 2,000 times what their average employee makes. The justification for this is the “market rate,” as if the market is the ultimate arbiter of morality and justice. While the market is a very efficient allocator of goods and services, it is at best amoral, and moral leaders must infuse ethics and justice into the system.

The Vincentian Option is just one example of how an institution can commit itself to responsible and conscientious governance. Consequently, the administration and other high-paid employees at Georgetown must recognize that they work at a Catholic institution founded on the basis of social justice.

While President DeGioia sits in his multimillion dollar house, I know a worker who shares a one room apartment in Silver Spring, d., with her husband and three children. No one should have to live in this kind of poverty, especially not someone who belongs to a Jesuit community.

I am not talking about structurally adjusting Washington, D.C. Georgetown is a closed system, and thus implementing a living wage would have no effect on the economy as a whole.

I am not trying to be radical and ask Georgetown to give the workers ownership of the means of production. Rather I am simply asking that Georgetown take a lead in the growing living wage movement. As a Jesuit institution it can serve as a model for other universities in their own efforts to implement solutions that eradicate poverty in university communities.

Rachel Murray is a sophomore in the School of Foreign Service and a member of the Living Wage Coalition.

Georgetown’s mission statement calls on us to live generously in service to others, but our university pays its subcontracted workers poverty wages. How is this in line with our commitment to justice and the common good?

I’m sick of hearing Georgetown’s financial crisis cited as a reason why we cannot commit to a living wage. Georgetown can and must find a way to stop paying poverty wages. If we can find the money to hire celebrity professors such as George Tenet or muster $15 million to build a new boat house, we can find the money to put Georgetown’s Jesuit ideals into practice.

This is our moral and social obligation to our workers and to ourselves as students at a Catholic and Jesuit institution. We must compensate our employees at a level that allows them to provide for themselves and their families without falling into poverty.

My father, a Georgetown graduate and avid Bush voter, is the president of a system of Catholic hospitals in Kansas City, Mo., that has implemented a living wage for all of its employees. He recognizes the fact that institutions can run into financial barriers, but to him this is not a reason to make excuses, but rather an opportunity for creativity. Consistent with Catholic social teaching, one creative plan that my dad has implemented is called the “Vincentian Option.” My father proposed to his board that his salary be capped in relation to the lowest paid worker.

In our society, we look to the marketplace to determine whether someone is being paid a fair salary, with the inference that paying someone less than this determined amount is unfair. With executives, this can become very self-serving as their high salaries inflate more rapidly with annual increases and grow more out-of-line with that of the average worker.

In this country, some CEOs in big companies make 2,000 times what their average employee makes. The justification for this is the “market rate,” as if the market is the ultimate arbiter of morality and justice. While the market is a very efficient allocator of goods and services, it is at best amoral, and moral leaders must infuse ethics and justice into the system.

The Vincentian Option is just one example of how an institution can commit itself to responsible and conscientious governance. Consequently, the administration and other high-paid employees at Georgetown must recognize that they work at a Catholic institution founded on the basis of social justice.

While President DeGioia sits in his multimillion dollar house, I know a worker who shares a one room apartment in Silver Spring, d., with her husband and three children. No one should have to live in this kind of poverty, especially not someone who belongs to a Jesuit community.

I am not talking about structurally adjusting Washington, D.C. Georgetown is a closed system, and thus implementing a living wage would have no effect on the economy as a whole.

I am not trying to be radical and ask Georgetown to give the workers ownership of the means of production. Rather I am simply asking that Georgetown take a lead in the growing living wage movement. As a Jesuit institution it can serve as a model for other universities in their own efforts to implement solutions that eradicate poverty in university communities.

Rachel Murray is a sophomore in the School of Foreign Service and a member of the Living Wage Coalition.

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