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

Georgetown’s Moral Imperative

Georgetown has an obligation to every worker in the campus community. Our stated commitment to justice, the Catholic tradition and the common good means that we must pay all employees enough to ensure that they can provide for themselves and their families without falling into poverty.

Workers have a right to earn a Living Wage that provides them with adequate resources to cover the costs of food, housing, health, taxes, child care, transportation and basic necessities in Washington, D.C.

A Living Wage is more than a nominal number. It is an assurance of workplace rights, such as the right to organize, job security and fair working conditions. Anything less than a Living Wage compromises these workers’ rights and integrity and falls short of our most basic obligation to our employees.

Georgetown is a Catholic institution built upon the Jesuit tradition of social justice. Since 1891, the catechism of the Catholic Church has maintained that fulltime workers should not be kept in poverty by inadequate wages.

Georgetown’s mission statement calls us to “live generously in service to others.” To guarantee that the principles central to our Catholic identity do not become empty rhetoric, the Living Wage Coalition demands that Georgetown act in concrete and accountable ways to uphold them.

Georgetown’s operation costs are subsidized by poverty, injustice and human suffering.

As one worker told students, “I know the kinds of wages that other workers get, and this is not enough. It’s not right. I came to this country to work. I know that it is only with hard work that you can get ahead. You have to earn all the good things in your life. I am not afraid of working, but I know when something is unjust.”

Subcontracted workers have taken great risks to publicly express their grievances to students, administrators and the campus press. They have asked students to act on their behalf because they cannot.

The Living Wage Coalition has cooperated with the university for nearly three years. We have provided weekly Worker Appreciation Breakfasts, organized ESL classes, assisted in the formation of the Advisory Committee on Business Practices, extensively researched and debated the definition, meaning and purpose of a Living Wage and worked on a practical Living Wage Policy proposal with faculty and Jesuit members of the ACBP.

Georgetown has had three years to consider the important concerns and questions of a Living Wage, and two years to address the coalition’s demands.

Important first steps toward better wages have been made, but a raise is not enough unless it is the first step of a policy which places wages above the cost of living, and keeps them there. Georgetown must commit to a Living Wage Policy based on the D.C. cost of living and workers’ vital needs.

Students and workers set March 14 as the university’s final deadline to commit to such a policy, but the administration refused to meet it. Georgetown is unwilling to pay workers enough to live on or engage with students’ demands. Its refusal to do so after three years of committee meetings, discussions and bureaucracy forces the Living Wage Coalition to take strong action on behalf of workers who are unable to act as strongly on their own.

Three years ago, the university was alerted to the problem of poverty wages and it has not acted strongly enough to fix it. This failure demonstrates that the university is unable or unwilling to treat poverty on campus with the urgency it demands.

Someone must take strong action to expedite an otherwise endless bureaucratic process of committee meetings and rhetoric. Since Georgetown refuses to take such action and commit to a Living Wage, it forces the Living Wage Coalition to do so.

Reluctantly, the Living Wage Coalition has declared a hunger strike until Georgetown commits to a Living Wage Policy that adequately meets the rights and basic needs of all workers on campus. Until this happens, over 25 students will not eat. Many others will fast in solidarity. Because Georgetown cannot appreciate the urgency of poverty wages on campus, we hope and pray that it will appreciate the urgency demonstrated by its students.

The Living Wage Coalition continues to be open to any and all discussion with the university regarding the implementation and impact of a Living Wage policy.

We want to engage in productive negotiations that will produce a clear timeline for ending poverty wages on campus and treating subcontracted workers with respect and dignity. For the last three years, our requests for productive meetings have been denied. We will meet with any party, but demand productive negotiations with administrators empowered to make decisions regarding a Living Wage Policy.

We encourage students, faculty and staff to participate in 24-hour solidarity fasts or attend our daily program of rallies, vigils, performances and meetings in Red Square. Our commitment to Catholic values of social justice and human dignity demands no less.

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