Friday, October 8, 2004 Progress Made on Worker Pay

Georgetown is taking steps toward fulfilling promises of increased compensation for main campus employees. In a statement released Tuesday, Senior Vice President Spiros Dimolitsas affirmed the university’s commitment to renegotiate the compensation of workers employed by P&R Enterprises who work at Georgetown. The university stated its intention to raise the minimum wage of these employees to $8.50, make this change retroactive to July 1, 2004, and secure health insurance benefits by December.

These changes come as a direct result of efforts taken on behalf of workers by the Georgetown Solidarity Committee. In the spring of 2003, GSC published a report detailing its Living Wage campaign. Its demands included that the university guarantee a living wage for all workers on campus, that wages be tied to an annual index that tracked the living wage in the D.C. area, and that the university move immediately toward these goals.

In the spring of 2003, this newspaper wrote in support of these changes: “Georgetown may only be one single institution in a world full of injustice, but for many of our contractors, we are major clients. The university should use that leverage to effect positive change for workers” (“Living Wage is a Positive Change,” The Hoya, April 8, 2003, A2). Today, worker compensation still falls short of a living wage, according to GSC.

But progress is being made. In a series of meetings held earlier this year, the university promised to take a first step towards improving compensation for campus workers. Solidarity Committee members were told that P&R employees’ wages would be raised from $8.30 to $8.50 this summer and that health benefits would be secured.

In Tuesday’s issue of The Hoya, two members of Georgetown Solidarity wrote that the university had reneged on its promise. embers of Solidarity delivered letters to Dimolitsas’ office on Monday and additional measures, intended to put pressure on the university, were planned for the rest of the week.

Dimolitsas’ statement, however, indicates that the university is, in fact, working towards fulfilling the promises of last spring. By affirming in writing its commitment to secure the promised wage increase and, more importantly, to making that increase retroactive to this summer, the university has made clear that it is negotiating in good faith. It should be commended for negotiating with P&R on behalf of the workers, and for staying true to the timetable promised in the spring.

GSC’s continued persistence in pursuit of these goals is admirable. The work being done on behalf of campus workers – who are not unionized, and are often afraid to speak out – is laudable. GSC should continue to take into account the university’s financial situation and demonstrate a willingness to compromise. Only by being realistic in their demands and negotiating strategies will GSC be able to effect real change.

If and when the university makes good on the commitments affirmed in Dimolitsas’ statement, each P&R worker will receive a raise equivalent to hundreds of dollars per year and, for the first time, access to health benefits. These changes would probably not have been conceivable without these students’ efforts.

Nonetheless, this is only a first step. The promised 20 cent wage increase is approximately equivalent to a 2 percent raise and, even with the promised health benefits, falls far short of a living wage in D.C.

Additionally, as this process moves forward, communication between the university and GSC must be clear. There was obvious miscommunication over the summer, as evidenced by the fact that GSC felt the need to communicate through this newspaper this past week. While the reconvening of the Business Ethics Committee will facilitate additional communication, both sides must maintain clear and open lines of communication if this process is to move forward at full speed.

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