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An open letter from Notre Dame faculty in support of a just wage

| Thursday, April 21, 2022

Dear Notre Dame Administrators,

We, faculty members at the University of Notre Dame, write to you regarding the Raising the Standard Campaign’s (RSC) recent proposal “Recommending Compensation and Labor Policies That Reduce Economic Hardship.” We demand the University engage in good faith negotiations on this proposal and offer a public response regarding its decision.

As the largest employer in St. Joseph County, Notre Dame is a major driver of economic trends in the region, including both its successes and failures. In the spirit of this shared responsibility to ensure the future success of those who live here, the University has both a strategic motivation and moral obligation to ensure that residents of the community are able to support themselves financially. Yet, we fall short of this commitment.

The overall poverty rate in South Bend is 23.6% — nearly double the national average. A large percentage of that poverty is concentrated among Black households, with a poverty rate of 40.2%. In a meeting last August with South Bend civil rights leaders and community activists, a self-organized group of Notre Dame professors working under the name “Justice ND” asked what Notre Dame could do to alleviate poverty and racism in the community. The local leaders replied simply and earnestly: “Pay your staff a living wage.” Current wages paid to many non-professional staff have not met the threshold of a living wage and do not uphold the dignity of the worker.

Students, particularly those from low-income backgrounds, also struggle with low wages from campus employment. Despite the University’s commitment to meet “all demonstrated financial need,” loans often constitute large portions of student aid packages and fail to consider the various other costs associated with campus life. As a result, low-income students find themselves working countless hours just to afford a visit home for break or a laptop for class. Their limited hours are forced to be spent working rather than investing in their studies or engaging with the campus community. It is little wonder why the percentage of low-income respondents who say they “strongly disagree” with a sense of belonging at Notre Dame is nearly triple that of all other income brackets. On a campus where all should be included, financial barriers force some to the sideline.

The time is now for Notre Dame to reform its wage standards. We are recovering from a global pandemic that brought to light the importance of all workers and the many inequities existing within the labor market. As a global leader in Catholic Social Teaching who champions our commitment to equity and inclusion, Notre Dame can no longer allow the market to be the sole determiner of what we deem acceptable. We must instead follow the path of Pope Leo XIII “not to look upon [our] work people as [our] bondsmen, but to respect in every man his dignity as a person ennobled by Christian character.” Notre Dame must reclaim its Catholic ethos. Raising the standard of how we treat our workers is the first place to start.

Further details of the holistic RSC proposal can be found on their website. We ask that you show consideration for all members of our community and offer a timely response for action.

Students and alumni can join this cause by signing the change.org petition, “Raise the Standard for Notre Dame Workers.”

Yours in Notre Dame,

Ann Astell

Tawrin Baker

Katrina Barron

Christine Becker

Gail Bederman

Heidi Beidinger-Burnett

Kimberly Belcher

Kraig Beyerlein

John Blacklow

Patricia Blanchette

Catherine Bolten

Keith Bradley

Eric Bugyis

Katie Bugyis

Pam Butler

Matthew Capdevielle

Elizabeth Capdevielle

Kevin Christiano

Lee Anna Clark

Robert Coleman

Manoel Couder

Kathleen Cummings

Meenal Datta

William Donahue

Margaret Doody

Nilesh Fernando

John Fitzgerald

Judith Fox

Mary Frandsen

Stephen Fredman

Johanna Frymoyer

Justus Ghormley

Monisha Ghosh

Anne Gilbert Coleman

Jill Godmilow

Victoria Goodrich

Dan Graff

Karen Graubart

Barbara Green

Jennie Grillo

David Hachen

Gerald Haeffel

Douglas Hall

Anna Haskins

Matthias Hoelzlein

Maria Holland

Romana Huk

Eileen Hunt

Carlos Jauregui

Lionel Jensen

Emily Johnson

Encarnacion Juárez-Almendros

Asher Kaufman

Tamara Kay

Mary Celeste Kearney

Rosemary Kelanic

Richard Klee

Janet Kourany

Greg Kucich

Kevin Lannon

David Lantigua

Erin Moira Lemrow

Marya Lieberman

George Lopez

Jay Martin

Julia Marvin

Barry McCrea

Ken Milani

Fr. Bill Miscamble

Olivier Morel

Leslie Morgan

Michèle Müller-Itten

Amy Mulligan

Robert Norton

Abigail Ocobock

Yasemin Ozkan Aydin

Rachel Parroquin

Juanita Pinzón-Caicedo

Jean Porter

AnnMarie Power

Clark Power

Joseph Powers

Gretchen Reydams-Schils

Francisco Robles

Ryan Roeder

Mark Sanders

Valerie Sayers

Catherine Schlegel

Jim Schmiedeler

Roy Scranton

John Sitter

Lyn Spillman

Jason Springs

Michael Stanisic

Jim Sterba

Julia Thomas

Steve Tomasula

Andrea Topash-Rios

Anre Venter

Robert Walls

Joanna Want

Hannelore Weber

Henry Weinfield

John Welle

Susanne Wengle

Richard Williams

Pamela Wojcik

Marty Wolfson

Susan Youens

Calvin Zimmermann

April 10


The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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