Media Advisory

Chancellor’s letter to SWA sit-in participants

Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton met with the Student Worker Alliance sit-in participants at 3 p.m. today. During the meeting, held in South Brookings Hall, the chancellor presented the following letter.

Dear Members of the Student Worker Alliance:

I welcome the opportunity to continue the dialogue on how to best achieve our mutual goal of improving the wages of our contract workers. Thank you for your participation in the discussion sponsored by Student Union last evening.

I want to again assure you that an ongoing, productive interchange is our highest priority, now and in the coming months and years. We all believe that open, meaningful dialogue is essential, which is why I have met with you on five separate occasions in addition to the numerous times that Executive Vice Chancellor John Klein has met with you as the University’s official representative. Further, Vice Chancellor and Dean James McLeod and others have talked frequently with you.

I have read the letter you delivered yesterday and believe that my meeting with you today and this letter represent a good-faith response.

  • As a beginning for the 2005-06 fiscal year, we have committed a half-million dollars annually toward improving wages and benefits of lower-paid contract service employees, with the understanding that this amount will need to increase in future years. This is only an initial response that demonstrates our concern for financially disadvantaged contract workers, and we are already initiating an effort to determine how these funds will be allocated—an effort in which we have offered you an active role.
  • We will soon meet with the companies that provide basic services to the University on a contractual basis to assure conformity to the commitments made in our “Principles and Guidelines for Basic Service Contracts,” which became University policy last fall. In addition, we are opening expanded discussions on how improvements can be made in worker health-care issues. The well being of all who are associated with Washington University is of great importance to me.
  • I will appoint a team to reexamine ways we can identify future resources necessary to address the ongoing needs of lower-paid contract service employees. Your participation on this team will be most welcome.
  • The University will continue its policy of not attempting to influence independent contract service companies or their employees with respect to any labor issues between them.
  • The University will join the Workers Rights Consortium, in addition to its present membership in the Fair Labor Association, to maintain our policy of supporting international and national efforts promoting respect for labor rights around the world.

As Chancellor, you have my assurance that the University will move forward with these steps, and I hope you will join with us in this opportunity to make Washington University a better place for all who work, live, and study here.

Your continued occupation of South Brookings Hall is a very real disruption of our ability to carry on the important business of the University. More importantly, let me reiterate my concern for the health of those students engaged in a hunger strike. I take seriously my responsibility for the well being of everyone in our community, and I cannot in good conscience allow life-threatening behaviors to continue. As I have said on several previous occasions, and as have Dean McLeod and Dr. Glass, we care about you and ask you to end the hunger strike immediately.

I believe you have accomplished a great deal. You have raised our consciousness and helped set the University’s plan in action. Again, I invite you to join us in making it a reality.

Sincerely yours,

Mark S. Wrighton

Chancellor, Washington University in St. Louis