Loyola students are fighting for workers’ rights in a Students for Worker Justice (SWJ) campaign under Student Government of Loyola Chicago (SGLC). With the current issues with living wage injustices in the U.S., the group decided it needed to do more and applied to become a
Registered Student Organization. Student Activities and Greek Affairs (SAGA) is reviewing their request and a decision is expected on Oct. 2.
SWJ campaign organizer Melinda Bunnage said the group’s goal is to pass the Jesuit Just Employment Policy at Loyola, a policy that would promote fair working conditions by focusing on a university’s Jesuit values.
“We talk about social justice at this university, but it’s incredibly powerful to actually encounter what an injustice looks like on your own campus,” said the senior sociology and women’s studies and gender studies double major. “Social justice is building relationships with people around you, especially [with] those people who face injustice.”
SGLC President Michael Fasullo said SGLC tried to pass a Jesuit Just Employment Policy in spring 2013.
“We saw that Georgetown had passed a Jesuit Just Employment Policy in 2005, so we passed a draft of the policy tailored toward our university,” said the senior political science major. “SGLC passed a draft to administrators trying to get this done but it never went anywhere.”
Bunnage said the justice committee for SGLC decided to bring back the fight for workers’ rights last year.
“We got serious,” said Bunnage, 21. “We attended a conference at John Carroll University that was about how to run a living wage campaign.”
Last fall, SGLC’s justice committee began hosting a breakfast every other Friday to get to know workers, which it continues to host.
“It’s our way of getting students involved and letting them interact with the workers to see who they really are,” said Bunnage.
In spring 2015, SWJ connected with Aramark workers who were fighting to unionize. Now it is helping them fight for better workers’ contracts since their contracts expired Aug. 31.
“We have a couple main goals for the year: to help the Aramark workers fight for a better contract and [to] help the adjunct professors fight for a contract,” Bunnage said.
Adjunct instructors are part-time, semester-by-semester instructors who are currently joining the Fight for 15 campaign, a nationwide fight to increase minimum wage to $15 an hour. On Sept. 10, two adjunct instructors, Alyson Paige Warren and Matthew Hoffman, fasted for the day to raise awareness.
“It may shock some people that in many cases adjunct instructors are closer in pay to fast food workers than full-time professors,” said Warren. “I think we need to educate the public and get students involved. They’re the ones with the voice.”
Adjunct instructors are trying to help pass the Jesuit Just Employment Policy because it’s not just about pay — they don’t receive benefits or have job security either.
“We don’t make as much as full-time professors and there is not as much stability with the jobs,” said Warren. “Most instructors are just making ends meet and doing extra freelancing or tutoring on top of teaching classes and because of this, we can’t serve students the way we want to.”
Bunnage said she thinks this is the necessary time to become an organization and bring change with the Fight for 15 campaign, which is happening throughout the U.S.
“We are excited for this year because we have been working very hard and we are ready to see some of that work pay off,” she said. “There is so much power in students making relationships with workers, especially because we’re told we’re not supposed to, but there is no reason we shouldn’t be able to talk to them.”
Social work and English double major sophomore Natalie Pine, who has been working on the SWJ campaign for a year, said it opened her eyes on how much she can really help.
“In so many ways the campaign is empowering. You’re empowering these people, and in doing that, they’re empowering you,” said Pine, 19. “I think we’re in a time right now — especially in our generation — where we realize that these issues are hitting home and this is the moment to solve these issues. ”
Fasullo said he wants to see the university live up to its Jesuit values.
“I think that students are very upset when they see a disconnect between what we’re preaching and what we’re practicing,” said Fasullo, 21. “I never want to see a university, especially mine, not live up to its mission fully and I think this is an area where it doesn’t.”