April 22, 2005
Dear Members of the Student Worker Alliance:
Thank you for your correspondence dated April 21 and your willingness to continue this important dialogue. I want to clarify in this letter what the University has committed to do and lay out what additional steps can be taken when your sit-in of South Brookings and the Brookings Quadrangle has come to an end. You have raised our awareness of these important issues, and I truly believe that the University has a made a generous and good-faith response, as follows:
- Beginning in the 2005-06 fiscal year, we have committed $500,000 annually toward improving the wages and benefits of lower-paid service workers. Also, beginning in the 2006-07 fiscal year, we have committed an additional $500,000 annually toward the same purpose. We have already begun an effort to determine how these funds should be allocated.
- The University will appoint a team to review University priorities with the intent of identifying what additional resources might be available to address the ongoing needs of lower-paid service workers.
- We will soon meet with the companies that provide basic services to the University on a contractual basis to assure conformity with 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 to determine if improvements can be made, especially on worker health-care issues.
- The University will join the Workers Rights Consortium, in addition to its present membership in the Fair Labor Association, to maintain its policy of supporting international and national efforts promoting respect for labor rights around the world.
- The University respects the rights and decisions of employees to choose to be represented by a union and to collectively bargain with their employer. The University is committed to remaining neutral in the labor relations decisions of its independent service contractors and their employees.
- The University will strive to do business with service contractors who recognize, support and respect fair labor practices. In selecting service contractors, adherence to fair labor practices will be a criterion for selection, in addition to those criteria already included in the “Principles and Guidelines for Basic Services Contracts.”
- In addition to the existing University requirement that service contractors have fair and consistent internal grievance procedures, the University will ensure that service contractors provide their employees with the opportunity to present grievances to a neutral and independent person, such as an ombudsperson.
- The University will establish an advisory committee composed of students, faculty and administrators that will meet periodically to review how service contractor selections and renewals were made.
In addition, once your sit-in has ended, the University will address these additional issues:
- The participation SWA may have in the above-mentioned efforts to identify what additional resources might be available to address the ongoing needs of lower-paid service workers and on the advisory committee that will meet periodically to review how service contractor selections and renewals were made.
- Dean McLeod will work with individual students and administrators to resolve issues related to violations of the University’s Judicial Code in connection with the sit-in and hunger strike.
- Dean McLeod will work with individual students and faculty members to address issues related to missed classes and exams and make-up work. Final decisions will remain with the faculty.
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.
After nearly three weeks of good and honest discussion, I believe this letter represents a generous, workable and responsive solution to the issues you have raised. While I respect your commitment and passion, you have disrupted the work of the University, intimidated persons who work here, and consumed University resources. I need to be mindful of my responsibility to the entire University community. This is the direction in which we are headed, and I invite you to join us.
Mark S. Wrighton