Fast for a Living Wage

Posted by at 2:45PM

Hey everybody, we’ve been fasting and camping out in White Plaza since Thursday. We’re going to keep going until the university agrees to follow up on its rhetoric and pay all Stanford workers a living wage. We’ll try to use this space to keep people updated about what’s going on and how we’re doing. You can also check out our website. Anyway, I’ll try to put a real post later today when I get some time.
Why are students fasting?

You may be wondering: why are students taking such a drastic action, putting their lives on the line?
Our Vision for Stanford
As an academic institution, Stanford is an undisputed leader. But Stanford’s role in the community goes much furtner – Stanford is the largest employer in Santa Clara county, and the decisions it makes affect our local communities. We’re challenging the University to become the model employer it claims to be. Stanford can and must become an ethical leader, setting a positive example even as it effects vital, immediate change in its sphere of local influence.
To that end, we’re putting forward a series of proposals — for the most part, asking the University to live up to the commitments it’s already made. The living wage, the principle of wage parity, guarantees to protect workers’ right to organize, and educational opportunities for workers have all been endorsed and implemented at Stanford. But their implementation has been incomplete, heavily qualified, and subject to frequent exception and violation – and this leaves large groups of workers underpaid, underprotected and on unequal terms with their peers. For Stanford to demonstrate and live up to its ideals, we want them to make real, unequivocal guarantees for labor justice on campus: a living wage, educational opportunities and wage parity guarantees that apply to all workers, regardless of worksite and of subcontracted, temporary or casual status; protections for the right to organize and for frequently-abused tempoarary workers; and transparent, democratic, and accountable mechanisms for implementing and reporting on labor policy.
What brought us to this point
This hunger strike comes as the culmination of a long series of requests, protests, actions and escalations on the part of the students — and, on the part of the university, unfulfilled commitments followed by several refusals to negotiate. It has been half a decade since SLAC first asked the university to show respect for its workers by creating a real living wage policy. In 2003, it took a seven-day hunger strike before President Hennessey agreed to negotiate with SLAC about removing the disabling restrictions on the current policy. We agreed to end the 2003 hunger strike because Hennessy agreed to take steps toward a living wage policy: he agreed to convene a committee on labor issues to review the current living wage policy and make recommendations. The committee reported that they could not find a single worker that the living wage policy protected, and recommended that restrictions be removed. Yet the university refused to take action: this past December, four years after the initial protests, the university finally reported that they do not intend to change anything about the living wage policy, and they refused to meet for further negotiations. Due to the university’s repeated refusal not only to amend the policy but also to meet to discuss the situation, it has come time for an action the university cannot ignore. Since the recommendations of the PAC and the charge of the ASSU have proven insufficient, we are adding our voices and our bodies themselves to the call.


8 Responses to “Fast for a Living Wage”

  1. The Unofficial Stanford Blog says:

    Fast for a Living Wage

    Hey everybody, we’ve been fasting and camping out in White Plaza since Thursday. We’re going to keep going until the university agrees to follow up on its rhetoric and pay all Stanford workers a living wage. We’ll try to use…

  2. TigerUppercut says:

    Congratulations and good luck in your efforts to overthrow capitalism! I, too, support the living wage, because I don’t believe all of those fancy graphs and charts that the economists and mathematicians show indicating that a living wage will mean a rise in unemployment!
    Listen for example, to his Harvard economist and his ramblings, “Workers who get a job at Harvard or for a local government will do fine, but the vast majority of workers are not going to be employed there. If those wages grow too far from the rest of the market, you also have the problem that they will change the mix of workers. You’ll think you’re helping disadvantaged minority individuals, but if Harvard pays a wage extremely above the outside market, they’re going to pick and choose and the standard discriminatory preferences.”
    In Pyongyang, where I live, everyone has the same living wage!

  3. Dan says:

    Thanks for the comment, TU. Here’s a quote from another Harvard economist: “The preponderance of evidence on ‘living wages’ and minimum wages suggests that the primary effect of any moderate pay increases for the lowest paid (improving their economic well-being) dominates the adverse secondary effects that trouble economists.”
    More importantly, that’s a pretty misleading quote and it’s taken out of context. Larry Katz, the guy you’re quoting, is definitely in favor of higher minimum wages that come closer to living wages. He was just concerned that we were only targeting one employer in the Boston area. If you want a really anti-living wage Harvard economist, try Mankiw or Feldstein. Those guys are real jerks.
    Also, a side note: I don’t think you’re very familiar with mathematical reasoning. If you were, you would realize how silly your second sentence sounds to anyone who understands the difference between science and math. The models you’re talking about perfectly describe abstract worlds that satisfy their assumptions. Unfortunately, the data shows that the world that we live in most definitely does not satisfy those assumptions. In particular, as the quote I included above indicates, the studies that have been done so far strongly indicate that the positive first-order effects of living wage policies strongly outweigh the negative second-order effects.

  4. Zangief says:

    Source on your quote?
    I disagree that the quote is misleading. In the original article, the introductory paragraph says that “Lawrence Katz opposed the living wage policy.” While he is definitely sympathetic to the concerns of the student body, he demurred at the idea of even defining a “fair or living wage”.
    Thanks for your side note. Most economics literature is peppered with heavy-duty calculus and most economists would be conceptually at home in the math department. I agree, their use of models to describe the world is often far afield, but the frameworks they provide for capturing the choices that consumers make have predictive and practical usefulness.

  5. Dan says:

    Sorry, it’s from an article in Harvard magazine:
    You’ll find an argument from Mankiw against a living wage at the same site.
    I guess I didn’t make myself clear enough about Larry’s position. He disagrees with the tactic of targeting high-profile employers like Harvard and Stanford, but he favors raising the minimum wage for all workers. That’s a position that’s very much in disagreement with the classical economics position that I think you’re arguing for. Actually, I think it’s a more socialist view than the living wage one (but don’t tell him I said that). If you re-read the CLWP interview, I think you’ll see what I’m talking about. I can definitely see how you could miss it the first time through if you didn’t know anything about him beforehand. Anyway, like I said, Feldstein and Mankiw are the guys that you probably agree with.
    PS: Spinning side kick. Also, I think that as the leftist, I should get to be Zangief.

  6. Zangief says:

    I don’t disagree about Katz’s political viewpoint – he’s clearly left-leaning. But he says repeatedly that he’s against the idea of a living wage, and much more in favor of an EITC.
    His argument about raising the minimum wage universally [“improving the minimum wage at the federal and state level”] if taken to its logical conclusion, will increase “unemployment amongst the young and unskilled.” []
    More choice quotes:
    “Although the minimum wage will not work according to economic theory—and it has not worked in reality—what makes it especially tragic is that it hits poor Americans hardest.”
    “Real wages rise when productivity rises. Labor productivity has gained 26 percent since 1997, and real earnings for non-supervisory workers are up 7 percent.”
    So, Katz doesn’t support a living wage, but he does support raising the minimum wage universally.
    That raise, in turn, will actually *hurt* the poor workers which it is intended to defend.

  7. hatbox says:

    The economists you cite = part of the reason we at Harvard are fasting as well.

  8. Rich says:

    Hmmm…what is a living wage around Stanford anyway? One of the most expensive places I’ve been in the US. Though, beautiful campus!


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