Jenkins responds, leaves CLAP unsatisfied
Joe Piarulli | Wednesday, May 3, 2006
At 10 a.m. Tuesday, approximately a dozen members of the Campus Labor Action Project made their way to University President Father John Jenkins’s office in the Main Building – where several stayed until 5 p.m. – to present petitions signed by more than 1,300 supporters requesting a task force be formed to evaluate the University’s wage policies.
But the group’s demands for change were met by a response from Jenkins affirming Notre Dame’s current practices – noting that University administrators have met with CLAP members five times already this year.
“For the most part, these have been amicable, productive meetings,” Jenkins said in the statement.
Executive Vice President John Affleck-Graves and Associate Vice President for Human Resources Robert McQuade have been “entrusted responsibility for this issue,” Jenkins said. “I am confident of their skill, their good faith and their concern for the well being of our employees and the university as a whole.”
The response left CLAP lead organizer Kamaria Porter “very disappointed.”
“They say it takes time, but how much time?” she said. “We’ll fight until we win. This issue is not going away.”
While CLAP did not have an appointment scheduled with Jenkins, the group arrived at the Office of the President at 10 a.m. and was stopped at the door by security members prepared for the planned sit-in.
CLAP members, all wearing yellow armbands, were told that Jenkins was not in. However, an assistant came out to receive the petitions and a letter to Jenkins.
In the letter, CLAP expressed its belief that the existing Staff Advisory Council – mentioned by Executive Vice President John Affleck-Graves in an April 19 statement as the appropriate venue for workers to raise concerns – is “ineffective in addressing the needs of workers.”
“[Y]our administration has refused to give us a definitive response to our call for a task force that was first presented in September, responding that these things take time,” the letter read. “We gather today to demand an answer on whether or not you’re willing to establish a Just Employment Task Force, and to deliver signed petitions demonstrating our support base.”
The group proceeded to sit outside the Office of the President, speaking with members of the media and asking passing individuals to sign their petition and include their name, address, telephone number, e-mail and affiliation with Notre Dame.
Around 10:40 a.m., two group members attempted to enter the office and were told that no one was available to speak with them.
Jenkins returned to his office around 11:30 a.m. and delivered his statement to the group shortly after.
In the statement, Jenkins addresses CLAP’s concern for social justice by saying University policy is grounded in Catholic social teaching.
“At Notre Dame, we value the contributions of every member of our staff, who help make this university the special place it is. And we are committed to paying fair and just wages and benefits to our workers, as a matter of justice and of fidelity to Catholic social teaching.”
While the sit-in was planned to be an hour in length, four members of the group stayed until around 4:30 p.m., when approximately 30 people returned for a last effort. The supporters prayed a decade of the rosary and then chanted for a living wage as they left the Main Building.
Porter said the group could not let the semester end without trying to get Jenkins’ attention one more time.
“We can’t let workers go into the graduation weekend working basically overtime on these poverty wages and not do anything about it,” she said.
Porter said the group plans to have another press conference in the near future and will continue to work toward their goals. CLAP’s campaign began Sept. 29, 2005, she said, and will continue indefinitely.
“We got the same sort of non-answer,” she said. “Even 30 members of the Notre Dame community couldn’t get any recognition, so I don’t know what it will take … but we’re gonna keep on going.”