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CLAP maintains demand for living wage

Kate Antonacci | Tuesday, September 5, 2006

The Campus Labor Action Project (CLAP) emerged on campus last fall as a small but vocal group of students campaigning loudly for a “living wage” for workers, and despite losing several leaders to graduation, the group has no plans to back down from its demands.

In the spring, CLAP members pushed for a $12.10 per hour salary in an 11-page report delivered to University President Father John Jenkins and other University officials.

This year, they plan to continue those efforts – more organized and more targeted.

“We’re making a more concerted effort [on an] individual and group basis to go out and talk to workers,” said CLAP member Nick Krafft, who is part of CLAP’s organizing core. “We’ve stressed that before, but never made a concerted effort until now.

“It’s their campaign, ultimately, and not ours.”

To that end, Krafft and other CLAP members will meet with the Notre Dame Staff Advisory Council – a 30-member freely elected council of non-exempt staff – on Sept. 14.

“We are the agenda for this next meeting,” said Krafft, who noted that discussions about a meeting between the two groups began last spring. “Right off the bat at the beginning of [this] school year, [Staff Advisory Council was] willing to meet with us.”

The Council, which defines non-exempt staff as “hourly wage earners and employees who are salaried but receive overtime after 40 hours,” gathers 12 times per year to compile formal input and present issues that “affect the staff” to University administrators, according to the Staff Advisory Council Web site.

The Staff Advisory Council serves as a link between non-exempt staff and the administration, and is a “big part of the worker relationship,” Krafft said.

“They [Council members] are in a position of power, and if they’re on board … I think other workers would follow,” he said.

Staff Advisory Council, which identifies itself as a “pipeline of information between the University administration and staff” on its Web site, is made up of staff from all different venues on campus. Members, who are self-nominating, must have completed at least six months of employment and must be a regular full-time or part-time non-exempt employee.

The meeting with the Council is the first of many meetings with different campus groups and administrators CLAP plans on having this year to create dialogue about the living wage.

University administrators have agreed to more meetings this year, Krafft said, but the group decided it did not want to just continue where it left off last year.

“I think just the way the semester ended was a blow to our momentum,” he said.

The “blow” came at the May sit-in when roughly a dozen CLAP members sat outside Jenkins’ office to present petitions signed by more than 1,300 supporters. Though Jenkins had met with the group five previous times that year, former senior and CLAP organizer Kamaria Porter wanted to meet to discuss the formation of a task force to evaluate the University’s wage policies.

While Jenkins refused to meet with the group at that time, Krafft said he considered the sit-in “really key.” Prior to the sit-in, Executive Vice President John Affleck-Graves released a statement backing the University’s existing wage policies.

The group is still pursuing the idea of the living wage, “but we also want to strive to form a relationship with the workers so that we can address labor issues together,” said junior Joe Murphy, who is a member of CLAP.

Krafft said the group is not expecting to see a change in wages immediately, but rather a change in the University’s willingness to examine the issue.

“I don’t think we can necessarily win on campus this year, but I think by the end of the year, we could get the University task force we’re asking for,” he said. “I don’t think this year we’ll just be treading water.”

Becky Hogan and Maddie Hanna contributed to this report.