Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Bargain Concludes Hunger Strike

University administrators and members of the Living Wage Coalition reached a compromise on wages for contracted workers just before Easter Break, bringing an eight-day hunger strike involving 26 students to an end.

The total compensation of workers hired through third-party contracting agencies will rise to a minimum of $13 per hour by July 1 of this year and $14 per hour by July 1, 2007, according to a new plan announced in a campus wide e-mail sent March 23 by University President John J. DeGioia. The new policy also grants contracted employees all of the same privileges accorded to non-contracted employees, including access to grievance procedures. Non-contracted employees will also receive at least $14.08 per hour beginning July 1.

After 2008, the university will adjust compensation packages based on the consumer price index and area labor conditions. Coalition members had pushed hard for such a provision, which they said was essential to maintaining a living wage for university employees in the future.

The coalition had originally sought minimum total compensation packages of $14.93 for contracted workers.

According to university officials, the policy was formed following meetings between Senior Vice President Spiros Dimolitsas and the Advisory Committee on Business Practices.

On March 23, Dimolitsas sent the proposal to DeGioia, who approved it and announced the new policy the same day.

“I’m deeply grateful to the students, faculty and staff members of the Advisory Committee on Business Practices whose thinking helped inform this policy,” he said in a broadcast e-mail.

According to university spokeswoman Julie Green Bataille, Georgetown’s calculations show that the policy will cost a total of $542,000 to fully implement over the next 24 months.

As lower paid workers see their salaries increase, many higher paid workers will see their salaries increase proportionately too. Bataille said 72 workers would be affected by this “wage compression.”

Members of the Living Wage Coalition said that they were pleased with the university’s new policy and believed that the hunger strike had sped its approval.

“We’re very happy and we just couldn’t be any happier,” Living Wage Coalition member Rachel Murray (SFS ’07) said. “This is better than anything any other campus has done so far.”

She said that following DeGioia’s announcement, the protestors had resumed eating and even had a “dance party in Red Square.”

Murray said that workers were “very happy” when they learned about the new policy from coalition members who announced it in several buildings on campus.

By March 24, the large white tent which the strikers had set up in Red Square had been completely dismantled and many of the former strikers were laughing and smiling.

Several of the strikers, as well as representatives of the AFL-CIO, met with DeGioia and other senior administrators that day to discuss the policy, Bataille said.

“My understanding is that the meeting was a good conversation where all parties discussed how glad they were for this to be resolved and to have taken steps that will make a difference for workers at Georgetown,” she said.

Two hunger strikers were hospitalized and three people were barred from Georgetown’s campus over the course of the strike, which began March 15.

Mike Wilson (COL ’05) was taken to Georgetown University Hospital March 19 after reporting vision problems. He later said that he was no longer on a hunger strike.

One day later three individuals unaffiliated with the university were barred from campus after they allegedly caused “physical disruption” to the Living Wage Coalition’s tent in Red Square, a Department of Public Safety incident log said.

Zachary Pesavento (SFS ’08) was also taken to the hospital arch 23 after complaining of dizziness. He was released later that day, continued striking, and by the next day said that he felt “great.”

During a celebratory picnic on Copley Lawn Friday, university officials and area dignitaries praised the university’s new policy.

The District’s congressional delegate, Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), said that she was “grateful for what these students did.”

“I’m not sure if any of you come from labor families but I do know this. I think that every one of you earned your labor card as far as I’m concerned,” she said.

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