Editorial: A real living wage for Stanford workers

As students and members of the Stanford community, it is our responsibility to help ensure that all members of this community are treated with respect. Those who work to provide us with daily basic and essential services–the custodial, dining and maintenance workers of Stanford University–deserve our respect and appreciation for what they contribute to our lives on campus. As students and members of the community, we must remain aware of and receptive to the wage and cost-of-living issues that impact the livelihoods of these individuals.

Since 2002, students and workers alike have been campaigning and negotiating to provide a living wage for all Stanford employees. Much progress has since been made as a result of student and worker efforts. However, the current living wage policy does not cover an overwhelming majority of campus workers. In 2007, the Living Wage Policy covered less than 150 of the thousands of Stanford workers. Currently, unionized workers remain excluded from the policy, along with employees of tenant businesses like the CoHo or Arbuckle Café, as well as those who work at SLAC and Stanford Hospital.

In 2003 and again in 2007, groups of students chose to fast in order to pressure the administration to administer a broader living wage policy. After the demonstrations in 2003, President Hennessy convened the Presidential Committee on Labor Policies, which recommended unanimously that “if Stanford says that it operates a ‘living wage’ policy, it should do just that and not surround it with conditions and qualifications that result in only a few workers being covered by the policy.” Students and workers organized and fasted in 2007 only after the committee’s recommendations were denied.

The current student-worker movement, which organized a large rally at Hennessy’s office last Friday, is gaining momentum, along with an informational town hall series that has engaged students from across campus on University labor issues. A display in White Plaza and a circulating petition are also helping to inform more Stanford community members of the Living Wage campaign and the issues at hand.

We, the Editorial Board, believe that there are changes to the current Living Wage Policy which must be considered if the University is serious about fulfilling the promises made to the workers of Stanford. We believe a living wage should be granted to all University workers for whom a living wage was promised. As the campus has witnessed independent contractors continuing to pay University employees less than living wages, it has become necessary to create an enforcement mechanism which will correct any violations of Stanford’s Living Wage Policy. As changes arise, students and members of the Stanford community should also be privy to any labor policy and analysis put forth by the University.

In 2007, the Stanford Report noted that the less than 150 workers who were covered by the Living Wage Policy earned $12.59 an hour with no benefits. It is hard to fathom supporting a family in Santa Clara or San Mateo on roughly $25,000 a year with no health insurance or other benefits. The Living Wage campaign is not asking for an increase in worker wages across the board, merely for the implementation of a policy that would provide decent wages for a majority of University workers.

The Editorial Board believes that a dialogue regarding a more fair and inclusive Living Wage policy must be forged. Furthermore, the dialogue must progress more rapidly and achieve greater successes than previous negotiations, which after several years yielded few improvements for the majority of Stanford workers.

About Editorial Board

Editorials represent the views of The Stanford Daily, an independent newspaper serving Stanford and the surrounding community. The Daily's Editorial Board is chaired by President and Editor in Chief George Chen, who is joined by Executive Editor Marshall Watkins, Managing Editor of News Catherine Zaw, Managing Editor of Sports Do-Hyoung Park and Managing Editor of Opinions Winston Shi. To contact the Editorial Board chair, submit an op-ed (limited to 700 words) or submit a letter to the editor (limited to 500 words) at eic@stanforddaily.com.
  • Cardinal

    This campaign has its heart in the right place, but the problem is that mandating the pay for these positions to be above market simply means that demand will exceed supply. After all, why get paid x to do y when Stanford pays 1.25x to do y? But in that case, who determines who gets the plum positions, and who gets told S.O.L.? I’m not clear how those supporting “Livable Wage” explain the social justice in having some select few hit the plum job jackpot while the rest of us have to compete and work hard just to earn market.

  • Daisy

    I think your remark is besides the point. It’s not about supplying a select number of workers with a “plum job jackpot.” These workers are being paid wages that don’t actually account for the real cost of living in the bay area. In reality, we actually end up subsidizing companies who pay poverty wages because the workers end up on government programs like medicaid and medicare.

  • Cardinal

    Perhaps it’s the argument about “real cost of living” that’s beside the point – after all, there are already minimum wage laws on the books. If not enough to live on were the real issue, why wouldn’t changing these laws through our democratic processes be the objective? Why only “help” Stanford workers and leave everyone else high and dry? Again, I don’t see how this makes sense from an economic standpoint or from a social justice standpoint.