The Georgetown Solidarity Committee, a worker’s rights advocacy group, delivered a letter on March 27 outside University President John J. DeGioia’s office to protest the administration’s efforts to change Washington, D.C.’s Universal Paid Leave Amendment Act of 2016.
The university has engaged in lobbying efforts to change certain parts of the bill, which is intended to provide paid family leave for District residents through the creation of a social insurance fund run by the District Department of Employment Services. Georgetown’s current lobbying efforts advocate system and pay out leave claims with their own policies already in place.
The act, which became effective on April 7, 2017, provides covered employees with 8 weeks of paid parental leave, 6 weeks of paid family leave, and 2 weeks of paid personal medical leave. The paid leave will be funded by a 0.62% increase in DC employer payroll taxes.
GSC wrote a letter condemning these actions, which was co-signed by 12 other student groups, including the Georgetown University Student Association, H*yas For Choice, the Black Student Alliance and GU Pride.
GSC member Logan Arkema (COL ’20), who recently ran a satirical ticket in the GUSA executive election, said GSC’s campaign efforts is meant to keep the university’s actions in check.
“[GSC members] have a history of being willing to call the university out when we feel like it strays from its publicized values, and we feel like this is one of those instances,” Arkema said in an interview with The Hoya. “We’re just reminding the university that we’re watching them, and that we think that this is antithetical to what being a university for others and caring about the broader community means.”
University Media Relations Manager Matt Hill said Georgetown already provides benefits superior to those that would be available with the new legislation.
“Georgetown supports the DC Council’s efforts to provide paid leave. Georgetown already provides benefits in a number of areas that are more generous than most provisions of DC’s Paid Leave Law,” Hill wrote in an email to The Hoya. “Georgetown supports a model that would allow employers with a proven track record of offering these types of benefits to continue to administer paid leave so long as they meet or exceed DC’s minimum levels.”
Yet many student organizations claim that the university’s lobbying would undermine paid leave for employees both within and outside of the Georgetown community.
The GUSA Senate unanimously voted in favor of a resolution in support of university and D.C. workers on March 18. According to the resolution, Georgetown’s adjunct faculty, graduate assistants, subcontracted employees, part-time university employees, full-time male university employees, and male tenured faculty members do not currently receive paid parental leave.
The bill is currently slated to take effect with a 0.62 percent payroll tax to large employers, including Georgetown, on July 1, 2019 for leave claims to become available on July 1, 2020.
GUCD Chair Maria Cornell (SFS ’20) said the university is engaging in delay tactics to stall the bill’s implementation.
“By lobbying for changes to the bill, the university is trying to delay its implementation, which would prolong the timeframe that workers throughout D.C. would not have access to the paid leave that many of them desperately need,” Cornell said.
In addition the support from GUCD, this issue has support from undergraduates on both sides of the aisle, Arkema said
“This is a very broadly supported undergraduate issue — it passed the GUSA senate unanimously, there are board members of the College Republicans in GUSA senate that voted for this, and other people who identify to the right,” Arkema said.
GSC concerns do not only affect workers within the Georgetown community, according to Arkema.
“Even if we [students at Georgetown] might not be workers now in the District, a lot of us will be, and for the best majority of us will be better if the bill stays the way it is,” Arkema said.
Beyond the potential harm for workers in the area, the university’s lobbying efforts are a waste of resources better spent on student-focused programs, Cornell said.
“The administration has chosen to make a poor investment of the university’s limited resources by lobbying for changes that wouldn’t benefit students and would hurt D.C. workers and their families,” Cornell said.
Arkema echoed Cornell’s view and said that the university is prioritizing its self-interest over the well-being of students and workers.
“They’re not using our resources to fix our Henles,” Arkema said. “Instead they’re paying lawyers to go undermine the interests of workers just so that the university might have a bit of an easier life.”