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The human dignity of campus workers

Annie DeMott | Tuesday, November 13, 2012

“Be the change you want to see,” be “pro-life” and support worker rights – what do these three ideas have in common? More than we might realize. This past Friday night at the Peace House, I had the wonderful opportunity to gather with a group of my fellow Notre Dame students who were involved with the Campus Action Labor Project for an evening of fellowship and a conversation about the dignity of workers.
There were so many new faces and I was humbled to meet so many other students who care about labor justice, despite our differences. Throughout our conversation, a central idea that we all agreed on was the significant way that we as students can promote the dignity of workers by how we relate to the many who work daily for us here on campus.
Many students shared encouraging stories of ways that they had witnessed individual students or entire student communities show honor and care for those who serve us by working for Notre Dame. As a student who is deeply committed to upholding the human dignity of workers who are often overlooked or underappreciated, I was inspired by these positive examples that model how we ought to relate to those who work for us in a spirit of solidarity.
Perhaps the most important question I could be asking right now is not about how “the University” is upholding the dignity of workers, but rather, how am I loving those who make my education possible through their work on a daily basis? I am not suggesting that we don’t need to care about where Notre Dame invests its money or how the workers are treated in factories that produce the Adidas apparel we proudly don at our football games. But perhaps the best place to start is with ourselves and our own attitudes.
The stories I heard on Friday night were intentional gestures of love to our workers that can reflect what we believe, and ultimately, what Notre Dame students believe. In many ways, this University has intentionally taught us that the dignity of the human person is of utmost importance.
We have the opportunity to demonstrate this belief by making loving gestures toward workers more frequently in our own community. The people who work for us are part of the Notre Dame family. They make our education possible just like our professors and benefactors do. And yet, we can all forget to care for them at times. It doesn’t have to be that way. To me, there seems no more appropriate way to “be the change you want to see.” I know I need to hear this.
As Notre Dame students, we can demonstrate our concern for our fellow brothers and sisters who do the dirty work on our behalf and thus speak volumes about our desire for worker rights to be upheld in the business world. And we can be transformed in the process. As a Catholic, this is an important part of what it means to me to call myself “pro-life.”  
Annie DeMott is a senior theology major and education, schooling and society minor. She can be reached at ademott@nd.edu
    The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.