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Administration details three-part worker plan

Kathleen McDonnell | Monday, September 18, 2006

The Campus Labor Action Project (CLAP) is en route to accomplishing some of its goals after meeting twice with administration members last week, member Nick Krafft said.

“We’re not going to stop until we feel like the wage scale is just,” Krafft said. “There are definitely steps being made in the right direction.”

An organization of about 20 students, CLAP was established last fall to secure a $12.10 per hour wage for campus workers. This year, the group hopes to address wages that are too low, an increased workload in the past few years and understaffing.

On Sept. 12 representatives of both CLAP and student government met with administration members including Executive Assistant to the President Frances Shavers, Associate Vice President of Human Resources Bob McQuade and Executive Vice President John Affleck-Graves to discuss the University’s new developments in worker relations, Krafft said.

The administration has a three-fold plan laid out to improve its relationship with workers. First, the University will send an extensive questionnaire to all workers in order to evaluate its role as employer. CLAP will have an opportunity to alter or add to the survey before it is sent and also to see the results.

Second, the administration plans to have a hotline run by a third party, a neutral company for workers, to allow employees to voice concerns.

“A lot of workers are afraid to go to human resources with concerns,” Krafft said. “So this neutral company will give them the opportunity to be heard.”

The third and final initiative will allow workers to feel more a part of campus life by starting town hall meetings in which new University developments will be discussed. Jenkins will host the first meeting at the end of September, and he will offer four different meeting times so that workers from all shifts will be able to attend, Krafft said.

CLAP members seem happy with the progress made but stress that the project is ongoing.

“We’re glad with the outcome of the meeting because we feel like if we didn’t start this dialogue, the changes may not have happened,” Krafft said. “But at the same time, we’re still trying to work with them on the issue of wages – I think that is going to take some more time.”

CLAP member Casey Stanton praised the administration’s efforts.

“They seem to have taken the issues to heart,” she said. “There’s a respectful collaboration going on here.”

Krafft also said the administration stressed that CLAP and the University do have the same goals.

“Right now we’re just coming at the issue from two different perspectives, and it’s just going to take some time so that we can see things from the same vantage point,” he said.

The University feels it’s a very fair employer compared to other institutions in the area, Krafft said, but CLAP still feels there is work to be done in terms of the pay scale. He described the meeting as “very collaborative – not at all antagonistic” which should lead to an even stronger partnership in the future.

On Sept. 14, CLAP members met with the Staff Advisory Council in order for the groups to discuss their goals and better understand each other.

“They [the Staff Advisory Council] sort of represent the whole range of workers on campus, all 3,000, and they had some really great questions for us,” Stanton said.

“They were interested in exactly what we wanted to do and wanted to know how we thought we could do it,” Krafft said. “It was really good knowing that this body of representatives was really throwing its support behind us.”

Krafft also said the meeting was a good opportunity to get worker contacts, as the organization is in the process of assembling a coalition of workers to move the project forward.

As for the future, Stanton stressed that any student interested in talking about labor issues should contact a CLAP leader to join the project. She also said CLAP’s next step is to further involve workers in the process.

“The most important thing is relationship-building in terms of really getting to know workers in a collective effort,” Stanton said. “We’re trying to figure out how the economics of it works while at the same time getting to know the workers and hearing their stories.”

Stanton praised last week’s meetings with the University as steps toward real progress in the collaborative effort.

“In all of this, we are recognizing that we have the same interest – making [Notre Dame] the best for its workers,” she said.