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Group to work for fair pay

Justin Tardiff | Thursday, October 13, 2005

Stuart Mora’s strong belief in social justice and the need to fight for workers’ rights inspired him to take part in a recently-formed organization on Notre Dame’s campus called the Campus Labor Action Plan, or CLAP.

Along with several other Notre Dame students, Mora believed Notre Dame was missing a way of ensuring that the University’s labor and wage standards were maintained fairly. Finding inspiration in Living Wage Campaign-a nationwide effort striving to eradicate poverty wages on college campuses throughout the United States-the students decided to form an organization that would foster these goals and work to provide justice for workers on the Notre Dame campus, specifically service and maintenance staff.

“We would like to ensure that all members of the Notre Dame family are treated with the respect that a member of such a family deserves,” said Mora, a sophomore.

CLAP, which welcomes workers, students, faculty, alumni and other allies committed to working around labor justice issues on campus, has pushed for meetings with University administrators and attracted both support and doubts from campus workers themselves.

Committee members of CLAP will meet with Frances Shavers, executive assistant to University President Father John Jenkins, and Bob McQuade, associate vice president of Human Resources, this month to discuss the various goals and ideas of the organization.

“We think that is the proper forum for discussing these issues,” University spokesman Dennis Brown said.

Aware that the University holds high standards in areas such as academics, spirituality and guidance, the organization feels that labor practices should be regarded with equal importance.

Bertha, a maintenance worker who requested to only be identified by her first name, said she has dealt with inadequate wages and unjust treatment during her 25 years as an employee of the University. Currently working as a dormitory custodian, Bertha said she has experienced unfair treatment by her supervisors and feels that if staff is cut back, too much work is unfairly expected of each worker-specifically manual labor that she said has caused her shoulder and back problems throughout this year.

Bertha said the fact that CLAP is primarily run by students, yet promotes the participation of workers as well, appeals to her because the work she does is for the students, and together they will be able to strive for justice and better treatment.

“[The students] are here to see the work that we do, not our supervisor,” Bertha said.

But Edna Anspaugh, a worker at Notre Dame’s South Dining Hall, feels that a group like CLAP is unnecessary. She said she is happy with the wages she receives and the work she does at Notre Dame.

“I don’t think it’s necessary because I think we’ve got things pretty good the way they are,” Anspaugh said.

Anspaugh said she feels comfortable with approaching her supervisor with any concerns or problems and said such an approach is sufficient.

According to its mission statement, CLAP seeks to have an open dialogue between its group members and the administration regarding University labor policies and a comprehensive living wage.

At the end of September, the group hosted its Inaugural Assembly, unveiling the work involved in putting the organization together and encouraging others to join in the campaign.

Matthew Walsh, chair of the University Affairs Committee of the Student Senate, said an open dialogue was the best way for CLAP to deal with the administration in order to promote dialgogue and discourage confrontation. CLAP has not been officially endorsed by student government.

Last April, then-junior [and Observer Viewpoint columnist] Kamaria Porter organized a teach-in consisting of 30 Notre Dame students and faculty, as well as a Harvard professor from a successful Living Wage Campaign.

“Everyone deserves to be treated with respect because everyone plays a part in making this University what it is,” said Lupe Gomez, a member of CLAP’s student committee who took part in the April teach-in.