Georgetown’s administration has failed us again. It has been years since we have brought to their attention the fact that workers on our campus earn wages that place them below the poverty line and do not enjoy health insurance.

It has been years since we have alerted the administration to just how glaringly our supposed commitment to social justice contradicts our policy of sub-contracting out the majority of work on campus to exploitative companies.

As a top-tier university, we can do better. As a Catholic institution with a dedicated moral imperative, we must do better.

The process to address our failed labor policy began over two years ago in committee meetings composed of students, faculty members, Jesuits and senior members of the administration.

An informal committee discussed the implications of a Living Wage policy for all workers on campus. Such a policy would guarantee that the wages and benefits that Georgetown pays are adjusted to the cost of living (housing, food, health care, child care, transportation, etc.) in the D.C. area.

In these committees we carried out years of extensive research and produced many public and private documents that address everything from the financial options and implications of implementing various wage increases to the abstract, moral applications of paying higher wages. After much work it was agreed that something must be done to address the plight of workers on this campus.

Last winter the administration agreed to take the first step toward remedying our embarrassing labor practices. By summer, they promised, every worker on campus would earn at least $8.50 per hour and enjoy a health insurance policy comparable to the directly-hired workers on campus. While $8.50 is still a far cry from a living wage, it would have been a beginning. At least we could start there.

It is now October, and it has become clear this administration does not take its promises seriously. According to workers we spoke to, as of yet, it has failed to either raise the minimum Georgetown wage to $8.50 or ensure that all members of our community are afforded health care coverage.

Not that the administration has told us this – it has not even bothered to schedule the first meeting of the newly formed Business Ethics Committee, which was promised to start meeting this summer.

Had the committee met as planned, the administration could have worked together with workers, students, faculty and Jesuits to guarantee that this essential first step was taken.

Instead, the Georgetown Solidarity Committee had to go to workers directly to ask them if the changes had been made.

When asked if they were finally enjoying a health insurance policy, workers on campus laughed at us. “Of course not!”

We were also informed that most daytime workers of P&R Enterprises, a firm with which the university contracts, still earn no more than $8.30 an hour.

Maybe lack of health care is too abstract a concept for high-salaried administrators to demand any real effort. The Georgetown Solidarity Committee, though, asks that they use their imaginations.

For the women and men who spend their days and nights working at Georgetown, visits to the doctor and prescription medications are beyond reach, both for themselves and their children. For them, health care is not a fringe benefit.

Georgetown requires that every student have health insurance because it would be an embarrassment if one of our students could not afford medical attention. The Center for Bioethics includes a Community for Health Care Justice which adamantly affirms that universal right to adequate health care.

And the School of Nursing & Health Studies continues its “long tradition of preparing morally reflective health care leaders and scholars who strive to improve the health and well-being of all people.”

Georgetown itself has within its mission a commitment to social justice and the common good. The administration must now show that it takes its charge seriously.

We have the resources to remedy our shortcomings, were we to prioritize them. It could be that the current situation is due in part to miscommunication between the administration and its subcontractors. In that case, we ask that the administration simply take the necessary steps to ensure that its promise is kept to the workers.

Doing so is the necessary first step of the process in which Georgetown must adopt a Living Wage policy for all its workers, both directly-hired and subcontracted.

We are one community, and we have much to be proud of, but we are better than this. The integrity of this institution demands it: Living Wage Now!

Janessa Landeck is a senior in the School of Nursing and Health Studies. Ginny Leavell is a senior in the College. They are members of the Georgetown Solidarity Committee.

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