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Living justice

Observer Viewpoint | Monday, February 20, 2006

On Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2006, the Student Senate unanimously passed two resolutions – “Expressing the Will of the Student Body for the Implementation of a Living Wage” and “Supporting the Creation of a Living Wage Joint Task Force.” While their titles may be lengthy, these resolutions seek one thing – justice for campus workers.

A living wage would help workers to stop living from paycheck to paycheck. As the Senate resolution states, “The typical starting wage for full-time employment as a Notre Dame staff member is $6.45 to $10.17 an hour.” With wages this low, far too many workers are forced to work multiple jobs and even qualify for food stamps. A living wage of $12.10 an hour would elevate campus workers above the federal poverty line.

One goal of Notre Dame, as outlined by the mission statement, is to cultivate students with “a disciplined sensibility to the poverty, injustice and oppression that burden the lives of so many.” Students of the Senate and Campus Labor Action Project have answered that call with vigor.

University President Father John Jenkins now has a unique opportunity.

Jenkins can maintain Notre Dame’s role as a moral leader by forming a task force of workers, students and faculty to implement a campus living wage. Since 1842, the University has not used the status quo or mere market forces to dictate its actions. The course of this University has been guided by one thing – Catholic values. Pope John XXIII wrote that workers have the “right to a wage determined by the criterion of justice.” As a Catholic institution committed to Catholic character, we are required to uphold the values of Catholic social teaching. With the implementation of a living wage, Jenkins can assure that every worker is treated as a member of the Notre Dame family. We cannot allow Our Lady’s University to be a place where injustice and poverty can thrive.

Mike McCannCampus Labor Action Project member