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

Working Towards a Just Employment Policy

To the Editor:

“Hunger strike = Just Employment Policy” seems to be the dominant framing for the recent events having to do with the living wage work and the creation of the Just Employment Policy here at Georgetown. The nine days of the hunger strike did not begin or end the Just Employment Policy. Such a framing denies the vision and hard work of so many different groups and individuals that culminated in the creation of the policy announced by University President John J. DeGioia on March 23.

Where did the journey begin? Without a doubt it began in the reality of contract workers struggling to make ends meet, and with the group of students who were inspired by that struggle and who sought to befriend the workers. And at the same time, it began with the new knowledge the students gained in seriously studying the issues, reaching out on and off campus to do that. With the creation of a formal tutorial that advanced the knowledge base, the Living Wage Coalition formed. In the continuation of that work others joined in with their efforts.

Administrators and faculty supported the students’ work and made their own steps along the way as well, such as creating or serving on an ad hoc committee and then a permanent committee, the Advisory Committee on Business Practices, to explore all facets of just employment, including what many call a living wage. With new people involved, and as to be expected at a large institution like Georgetown, not everyone had the same knowledge base so there was much work to get up to speed.

In January, the ACBP created a Living Wage Subcommittee to provide specific and deep attention to the issues. The subcommittee gathered data, wrote drafts and discussed issues. It became clear that there was no one right way to address all of the issues – not everyone saw the situation the same way. But people kept on working, even during spring break, to better understand the complexities. With helpful input from various resource people, the LWS worked to create a policy draft to put forward to the ACBP.

The Living Wage Coalition announced a hunger strike because the university had not agreed to a policy the coalition thought was appropriate. Meanwhile, the LWS continued to meet, seeking to reach some kind of consensus on the various issues still remaining.

Was the role of students pivotal all along? Without a doubt. Was the reality of the workers the basis? Absolutely. For the risks they took, the workers made the greatest sacrifices. They and directly hired workers gave hours of recorded testimonials and spoke publicly, many for the first time, to crowded rallies. Did faculty and administrators contribute to the process and policy? No question about it. Did the hunger strike expedite this work? For sure. Did the hunger strike cause the university to create a Just Employment Policy? No.

Lots of people worked to make the Just Employment Policy possible, working long and hard to do just that. Why? Because they have a vision of and a commitment to justice. We are in fact, as a university, on a journey to justice. All of us have a role to play. No one person causes justice. It is never done – there is always more to do. And there will always be more people – students, faculty, staff, administrators – passionate about joining others to do it. What will you do to keep advancing justice?

That is the question for each of us. And that is joy, the privilege and the challenge of being part of Georgetown University.

Ginny Leavell (COL ’05) Member, Living Wage Campaign Kathleen Maas Weigert Director of the Center for Social Justice, Research Professor in Sociology & Anthropology and Program on Justice & Peace

May 10, 2005

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