March 30, 2001

External Relations Committee’s Report
to the Senate on the Formulation of a Living Wage

 

In accordance with the Columbia Workplace Code of Conduct, point 7 [see below], adopted by the Senate on January 28, 2000, the University Senate External Relations Committee has pursued efforts to develop and establish a working formula for a living wage.

 

In November 1999, the committee sent two representatives to the Living Wage Symposium at the University of Wisconsin. That meeting led to the formation of a group that had its first meeting in February 2001. The committee sent Student Ginger Gentile (CC ’02) and Vice President of Public Affairs Alan Stone as its representatives to the founding conference of the Collegiate Living Wage Association (CLWA) conference on February 2-4, 2001, at the University of Notre Dame.

 

The CLWA is in its earliest stages as an organization, with the understandable accompanying delays and distractions involved in setting up academic study and application. A practical and timely formula, based on data from the many researchers in the field, will enable the application of the principles contained in Columbia’s Code of Conduct.

 

The committee has been reassured by its ongoing study, and the agreement explicit in the numbers of universities and colleges at the CLWA meeting, that a living wage formulation is a desirable, determinable goal to be incorporated into its strategic goals. The committee supports CLWA’s evolving plans to develop a living wage but wants to emphasize that those efforts can’t become the primary focus of the University’s work to help reduce sweatshop conditions. However, the ongoing “field” work of the Fair Labor Association (FLA) and the Worker Rights Consortium (WRC) to monitor, network, and negotiate must remain the central focus of Columbia and its licensees in order to further the goal of reducing sweatshop conditions.

 

Columbia Workplace Code of Conduct, point 7:

Wages and Benefits. Licensees and their subcontractors recognize that wages are essential for workers to meet their basic needs. Therefore, licensees and their subcontractors must provide a “living wage.” Employees will not be required to work overtime in order to earn a “living wage.”

 

For the purposes of this document, “living wage” shall mean a monetary amount that meets basic food, housing, medical, clothing, educational, transportation and other essential needs. Specific levels of “living wage” will be determined for individual workers or households in each country.*

 

In the interim, and also moving forward, special consideration shall be given to licensees who demonstrate continuous improvement in wages and/or who engage in collective bargaining.

 

Licensees and their subcontractors will also comply with all applicable local laws and regulations. Deductions from wages for disciplinary measure shall not be permitted.

 

*For fixing the precise formula for setting a “living wage,” the External Affairs Committee will bring to the Senate the findings of the University of Wisconsin-University of Notre Dame project, which was explicitly set up for establishing a quantitative "living wage" formula for workers in sweatshop conditions. In addition, the committee will take into account and bring to the Senate any other formulas on a “living wage” that seem appropriate, including the work of economists at Columbia University.

 

The Wisconsin-Notre Dame project plans to test its formula in a Latin American country with results available upon completion, currently scheduled for March 2000. That will also be the provisional time schedule for the External Affairs Committee to bring its recommendations to the Senate.

 

 

Columbia University

in the city of new york

 

The University Senate

 

March 23, 2001

 

Collegiate Living Wage Association

Todd Whitmore

118 Decio Hall

University of Notre Dame

Notre Dame, Indiana 46556

 

Dear Prof. Whitmore:

 

To further our goal of reducing sweatshop conditions, the Columbia University Senate adopted a workplace code of conduct with a living wage provision on January 28, 2000. In accordance with the code, the Senate External Relations Committee has pursued efforts to develop a working formula for a living wage.

 

Columbia University would like to follow the development of the CLWA, including its establishment of membership terms, and recommend the timely creation of a working living wage formula.

 

Such a formula would not be weighted down with too much new and unique study; it should incorporate and acknowledge whatever research and proposals from the last twenty years are appropriate.

 

A practical and timely formula, based on data from the many researchers in the field, will enable the application of the principles contained in Columbia’s Workplace Code of Conduct. However, the ongoing work of the Fair Labor Association (FLA) and the Worker Rights Consortium (WRC) to monitor, network, and negotiate must remain the central focus of Columbia and its licensees in order to further the goal of reducing sweatshop conditions.

 

Sincerely,

Eugene Litwak

Chair, Committee on External Relations and Research Policy