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Agree to CLAP

Letter to the Editor | Friday, April 28, 2006

In response to a rise in student action, the University recently released a statement on the living wage which, unsurpisingly, failed to provide a moral rationale for the share of Notre Dame workers who continue to live in poverty. It also included two misleading statements.

In it they claim: “Notre Dame has long recognized the right of our employees to unionize if they wish.” The fact is that the last time workers tried to form a union the University was found guilty of illegal anti-union activity by the National Labor Relations Board in 1978.

A second claim is that “The average salary of our service employees is 15 percent above the market.” In fact, the gap between low and high paid workers at Notre Dame has been increasing. While national wages for low-income workers are ten percent above those in 1979, those for top quartile of income earners have increased by fifty percent (Economic Policy Institute). The market is creating a large and growing gap between the working poor and rich, does Notre Dame want to follow its lead?

The University maintains that its system of wages is just, but does not provide a legitimate moral argument to support the idea that it should be spending $50 million on a new building, paying top-administrators $300,000, or maintaining a $2-3 billion endowment, while workers are living at or near the poverty level. Notre Dame workers should be paid enough for their family to be above the poverty level, and more critically enough to provide them with the dignity and recognition that they deserve.

We deserve a public dialogue on why University President Father John Jenkins is making $300,000 while other workers make $20,000 or less. Is this level of economic inequality and poverty acceptable for a Catholic university?

Staff, students and faculty should be outraged. The administration should disclose statistics on how wages and economic inequality have changed at Notre Dame for the past thirty years. It should take action to remedy this injustice by agreeing to the demands of the Campus Labor Action Project.

Aaron KreideralumnusClass of ’03Masters Degree in SociologyApril 27