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CLAP presents wage report to administrators

Amanda Michaels | Thursday, March 9, 2006

Four members of the Campus Labor Action Project (CLAP) descended upon the Main Building Wednesday at 1 p.m. to present Notre Dame officials with a report on the living wage, which includes the demand that University President Father John Jenkins publicly recognize the issue.

CLAP lead organizer Kamaria Porter, alumni coordinator Aaron Kreider, worker outreach coordinator Joe Murphy and senior member Guadalupe Gomez presented the report and individual letters to Jenkins, Provost Tom Burish, Executive Vice President John Affleck-Graves and Vice President of Student Affairs Father Mark Poorman, among a handful of other University officials with offices in the Main Building.

“We want to gain allies. This is an issue that touches us all,” said Kamaria Porter, lead organizer of CLAP.

Porter said the 11-page report, which includes a wide variety of information from economic statistics and charts to personal interviews with campus employees, was a work long in progress.

“We’ve been writing this for a month,” she said. “We’ve been researching for over a year. We interviewed people from the Harvard Living Wage Campaign and we talked with the Georgetown Living Wage Campaign – both of which were successful.”

The report identifies the concept of living wage – or “the hourly rate of income that a worker in a specific area must make in a 40-hour workweek to support a family of four,” according to the report – as one supported by Catholic Social Teaching.

The report also references the popularity of living wage movements around the country, citing Harvard University, Georgetown University, Stanford University, Swarthmore College and Wesleyan University as examples of the more than 30 academic institutions nationwide currently paying a living wage to their workers.

To establish a living wage at Notre Dame, the report suggests a minimum $12.10 per hour wage, or $25,164 a year, for University employees.

“This wage would put employees above both the poverty level and just about the Food & Nutrition Service eligibility requirement for food stamps for a family of four. No Notre Dame worker should need food stamps or other federal aid to support [his or her] family,” the report said.

The lowest-level Notre Dame employee currently earns $13,425, and “most of the lowest paid positions start at a level three minimum pay, earning $18,842 per year,” according to the report.

Though the achievement of this living wage was the organization’s greater purpose, Porter said CLAP had three main goals in mind when distributing the report Wednesday.

“We want a meeting with Father Jenkins,” she said. “We want Father Jenkins to make a public commitment to the principle of a living wage. [And] we want a joint task force of students, workers, faculty and administrators to address worker issues and come up with a just policy.”

When asked if CLAP would follow the footsteps of the campus labor movement at Harvard and stage a sit-in, Porter said the group would, if it was “appropriate” and if Jenkins did not recognize CLAP and their requests.

“The University values Catholic Social Teaching and being a force for justice, we want a reasoned response and negotiation with people from all across campus,” Porter said.

Porter said no officials were available for comment at the time of the report distribution.

CLAP is also producing an online petition, which currently has 433 names, as well as a written petition circulating around campus with 500 names. Porter said she hopes the written petition will have 1,600 names by Easter – 40 names for every day of the Lenten season.

CLAP plans to present the petitions to University officials at a future time, Porter said, after administrators react to Wednesday’s report.

After delivering the report to the President’s office, Gomez said she felt empowered.

“I feel strong,” she said, pumping her fists in the air. “It’s a group of us making a statement. This is so important, and it should be to [the administration] too.”