Join the labor conversation
Letter to the Editor | Thursday, February 25, 2016
In the all-staff Town Hall meeting conducted yesterday, the leaders of our University gave a 15-minute summary of changes to benefit plans for campus workers, then focused for the remainder of the hour on the student-centered enhancements, such as the Burger King replacement and the new rock climbing wall. Workers whispered, “When can I get a raise?,” struggling to connect the content’s relevance to their work and families. Fr. Jenkins proceeded to doze off during the discussion, epitomizing the stark disconnect between administrative policymakers and those who clean our halls. What if it was an audience of donors or students?
Since campus workers now clock-in at their respective buildings, rather than a centralized location, they do not have the opportunity to join together to talk about issues and strengthen friendships. This town hall meeting presented a unique opportunity for all workers to gather together. However, they were summoned to be lectured; they were not called as participants in the conversation about decisions that affect their livelihoods and families.
Executive Vice President John Affleck–Graves communicated the results from the ImproveND survey and highlighted “being open to suggestions” as one of the areas that the campus identified as needing improvement. Based on personal conversations we’ve had with campus workers, we know workers are afraid to provide suggestions at these meetings about critical issues that affect their personal and family well-being. The fact that workers fear raising issues that affect them at the workplace demonstrates that Notre Dame is not living up to its mission statement which espouses a commitment “to constructive and critical engagement with the whole of human culture.” Engagement with the whole of human culture starts at home, and the all-staff meeting blatantly lacked the voice and engagement of workers. Questions were not accepted until the allotted meeting time had elapsed, by which time workers had to get back to their buildings before their lunch break ended.
As a community, it is our obligation to ensure that all members of our community are valued and respected. What changes are necessary to achieve this? If we care, we actively listen to the needs of others, and do not doze. If we care, we form relationships with every member of our community, and work to meet their needs.
We hope that the conversation continues and, as John Affleck–Graves said, “We will do better.” If you would like to further discuss labor issues on this campus, consider joining the conversation on Tuesdays at 7:15 in Geddes B036.
The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.