Arizona State University students win better wages and working conditions for food service workers, 2006-2007

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Time Period:  
Time period notes: 
The campaign slowed between the autumn of 2006 and the spring of 2007.
Location and Goals
United States
Location City/State/Province: 
Phoenix, Arizona
Location Description: 
University of Arizona Campus
The Arizona State University Living Wage Coalition wanted to Arizona State University to hire a foodservice contractor that paid its workers a living wage, and allowed them the right to organize. They also wanted Arizona State University to institute a policy considering working conditions when contracting other companies.

In 2006, Arizona State University was one of the larger schools in the United States of America, and employed over 12,000 people. However, many employees at Arizona State University, including the food service workers, made the federal minimum wage of $5.15/hour, well below the “Living Wage” of Tempe calculated to be $10.46.

Since the late 1990’s, students at many different colleges across American had held campaigns to raise the wages of low-income workers. (See this database for other campaigns.)

In January of 2006, students from the Arizona State University Campus Greens and Young Democrats, who had supported the strike of contracted construction workers on campus during the fall of 2005, formed the Arizona State University Living Wage Coalition with the goal of winning a living wage and right-to-organize policy for the foodservice workers on campus, as well as setting a precedent for future contracting negotiations by the school.

The student organizers were inspired by the Georgetown Living Wage Campaign, where students had felt the need to escalate to vigorous nonviolent methods like picketing, attempting to interrupt administration meetings, and even fasting. (See, on this database, The students’ source of inspiration, and Georgetown’s successful outcome, may have become a tacit consideration for the Arizona State administration.

34 student leaders and faculty members signed a letter stating the difference between the average wage of a subcontracted food worker and the “living-wage,” defined by the Low Income Housing Coalition to be three times the amount need to pay for housing. On 29 March 2006, Arriane Peterson and Peter Howe, members of the Living Wage Coalition, met with officials from Student Affairs, Business Services, and the anti-sweatshop advisory committee, and presented the letter, as well as forwarding the letter to the president of the University, Dr. Crow.

The administration told the students that they were worried about where the money to pay the contracted workers would come from. The Living Wage Coalition told the administration that they wanted them to use their bargaining power with the contractors to meet the demands of the coalition.

In response to the letter sent to President Crow, Crow invited the Living Wage Coalition to work with the administration of Arizona State University to develop a set of guidelines for contractors there, including how much workers are paid and how they are treated. Students from the Living Wage Coalition worked with a task force commissioned by President Crow to examine the concerns that the Living Wage Coalition had presented in their letter to the administration.

On 4 August 2006, the task force presented their recommendations to President Crow, and on 31 August they were made official. President Crow put into place a policy of “preferred provisions” for contract workers known as the “Values-Based Standards for Significant Business Relationships;” venders who met these provisions would have priority in obtaining contracts. Vendors who paid employees certain wages, kept a safe work environment, encouraged higher education, did not discriminate, and had a grievance system would be given this priority. Housing, healthcare, and transportation for workers were also to be considered under this new standard.

Ross Meyer, the Undergraduate Student Government President, sat on the task force, and Crow gave him the power to put students on committees that affected the renegotiation of the food service contract.

On 1 March, 2007, The Living Wage Coalition held a “Run-Around,” in which students sent emails to the food service committee in charge of selecting Arizona State University’s food service contract petitioning them not to rehire Sodexho in favor a company that paid its employees higher wages. During the Run-Around, members of the Coalition provided students with prewritten emails that the students could either use, with the goal of persuading the committee to consider student input in the renegotiation of the contract.

The Living Wage Coalition then held a teach-in on 3 March 2007, as part of the larger “Local-to-Global Teach in” in Phoenix. At the teach-in, they presented the Living Wage 101 documentary film describing the Georgetown University students’ campaign.

On 26 April 2007 Arizona State University finalized a food service agreement with foodservice provider ARAMARK, who would take the place of Sodexho starting in July. Foodservice workers’ wages would rise an average of 60%.

The President and Administrative Liaison of the Living Wage Action Coalition Taylor Jackson announced to the Arizona State University Web Devil that they considered the change in food service provider a success. The wage increase of the workers under ARAMARK was nearly identical to the Coalition’s goal, the workers under ARAMARK had a right to assemble which met the goal of the Coalition, and new policies were put in place making working conditions a factor in the contracting process of the University, meeting the final goal of the Coalition.

Research Notes

The founders of the ASU Living Wage Coalition were inspired by the Living Wage Campaign at Georgetown University. (1)

Levison, Gary. "Coalition petitions for living wage ASU students hold 'run-around' today to push fair pay for MU employees." ASU Web Devil [Phoenix, AZ] 1 Mar. 2007: 1. ASU Web Devil Archive. Web. 29 Jan. 2014.

Brite, Tara. "125 ASU employees benefiting from minimum wage increases Student group working with administration to set pay guidelines." ASU Web Devil [Phoenix, AZ] 25 Apr. 2006: 1-2. ASU Web Devil Archive. Web. 28 Jan. 2014.

Brite, Tara. "Students push for higher wages for campus food workers Group wants to help look at vendors when Sodexho contract ends." ASU Web Devil [Phoenix, AZ] 30 Mar. 2006: 1-2. ASU Web Devil Archive. Web. 29 Jan. 2014.

Stone, Matt. "With new provider, there's a victory for Living Wage Coalition Contract details better working conditions and pay rates for Memorial Union employees." ASU Web Devil [Phoenix, AZ] 26 Apr. 2007: 1-2. ASU Web Devil Archive. Web. 29 Jan. 2014.

Cooper, Jonathan J. "Though exempt, ASU will honor minimum wage hike More than 400 students with on-campus jobs will see extra money." ASU Web Devil [Phoenix, AZ] 18 Jan. 2007: 1. ASU Web Devil Archive. Web. 29 Jan. 2014.

"Arizona State Universary." Living Wage Action Coalition. Living Wage Action Coalition, n.d. Web. 29 Jan. 2014.

"Local to Global Teach-In." Phoenix Anarchism [Phoenix, AZ]. N.p., 25 Feb. 2007. Web. 29 Jan. 2014.

Stone, Matt J. "New provisions bolster campus working conditions Vendors providing 'living wage' get ASU contract preference." ASU Web Devil [Phoenix, AZ] 19 Sept. 2006: 1. ASU Web Devil Archive. Web. 29 Jan. 2014.

Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy: 
Tom McGovern, 01/02/2014