presidents of Virginia's major universities are
doing little to ensure that all their employees
are paid a living wage.
T. Casteen, Charles W. Steger, Eugene P. Trani,
Paul S. Trible, Jr., Alan G. Merten, Roseann O.
do these six people have in common? They are all
presidents of universities in Virginia - the
University of Virginia, Virginia Tech, Virginia
Commonwealth University, Christopher Newport
University, George Mason University and Old
Dominion University, respectively.
else do they have in common? Their compensation
packages provide them with more than $364,000 a
year (with Casteen's being $690,000), and the
institutions that they head are major employers in
the communities in which they are located.
what else? All six have shown a lack of leadership
when it comes to making sure that all their
employees are paid a living wage. Nobody working
full-time should live in poverty. A living wage
allows for the dignity of workers. If we decide
that a job should be done -- whether it's cleaning
a dorm or mowing the grass -- we should be willing
to pay a living wage for that work. Unfortunately,
this is not the case at the University of
Virginia, Virginia Tech, Virginia Commonwealth
University, Christopher Newport University, George
Mason University and Old Dominion University.
think about this for a second. If John Casteen
discovers he needs a new pair of glasses, he
wouldn't hesitate to go out and buy them. If
Charles W. Steger's refrigerator isn't working, he
would have no trouble finding the money to have it
fixed. If Eugene P. Trani needs an antibiotic for
his sinus infection, he doesn't have to figure out
if he can afford the co-pay. If Paul S. Trible,
Jr. realizes that his car needs a tune-up, he
doesn't have to consider whether there's money in
the family budget to get it done this month. If
Alan G. Merten needs a new winter jacket, he won't
hesitate for a moment to get one. If Roseann O.
Runte's home computer has problems, she wouldn't
hesitate to call her local computer guru to figure
out what's wrong.
if the cafeteria workers who feed the students or
the custodians who are cleaning the buildings at
their universities are making less than a living
wage, they will have to think long and hard about
whether they are able to afford any of these
purchases or repairs.
1906, John A. Ryan wrote in "A Living
Wage: Its Ethical and Economic Aspsects":
"The great majority of fair-minded persons
believe, indeed, that labor does not get its full
share of the wealth that it helps to create, but
they are not agreed as to the precise measure of
that ideal share. Upon one principle of partial
justice unprejudiced men are, however, in
substantial agreement. They hold that wages should
be sufficiently high to enable the laborer to live
in a manner consistent with the dignity of a human
100 years later, these university presidents do
not subscribe to this principle of partial
justice. Rather, they sit in their comfortable
offices seemingly content with the fact that many
of their employees, whose hard work is so
essential to the smooth functioning of their
institutions, are not paid a wage that is enough
to support a basic standard of living.
of the message that these presidents are sending
the students who are enrolled in our state
universities: It is perfectly acceptable to
exploit those very people whose dedication and
hard work help make their education possible and
their lives easier. No one who works full-time in
the United States of America should live in
you share that belief, I urge you to contact these
university presidents and tell them to stop their
immoral act of paying poverty wages.
March 20, 2006