Georgetown University students catalyze win for living wage for university workers, 2001-2006


To accomplish a living wage (approximately $14.93/hour) for Georgetown University employees.
The right to unionize with card check neutrality.

Time period

2001 to May, 2006


United States

Location City/State/Province

Washington, D.C.

Location Description

Georgetown University
Jump to case narrative


Georgetown Solidarity Committee, Living Wage Coalition


Not known

External allies

US Rep. Stephen F. Lynch, US Rep. Michael H. Michaud, US Rep. Linda T. Sanchez, US Rep. Eleanor Holmes, Joslyn Williams, Metro Washington Central Labor Council, Catholic Labor Network (national organization), AFL-CIO (national organization)

Involvement of social elites

Twenty Democratic members of the U.S. Congress supported the campaign


Georgetown University administration, President John J. DeGioia

Nonviolent responses of opponent

Not known

Campaigner violence

Not known

Repressive Violence

Not known


Economic Justice
Human Rights



Group characterization


Groups in 1st Segment

Georgetown University students
Georgetown University workers

Groups in 5th Segment

Joslyn Williams
Catholic Labor Network

Groups in 6th Segment

Linda T. Sanchez
Michael H. Michaud
Stephen F. Lynch

Segment Length

Approximately 1 year

Success in achieving specific demands/goals

5 out of 6 points


1 out of 1 points


3 out of 3 points

Total points

9 out of 10 points

Notes on outcomes

While the campaign was quite successful, the University administration did not meet all demands, including the $14.93 per hour wage.

Database Narrative

Georgetown Solidarity Committee (GSC) formed at Georgetown University in 1996
to support workers' rights.  In the fall
of 2001, a group of students, headed by the GSC, formed the Living Wage
Coalition (LWC) in order to guarantee University workers an income to meet their
subsistence needs. The students held meetings on how to take action and organized
breakfast events with workers to hear their grievances and concerns.  By 2002, the administration agreed to raise
the minimum wage of workers directly employed by the university to $10.25 per
hour but did not address the pay of the many subcontracted workers.

of this, the campaign continued, now pushing for a living wage for all workers
at Georgetown.  Students organized worker
appreciation events and planned meetings in order to listen to workers'
concerns. The GSC also began to organize English-as-a-Second-Language classes
for campus workers who wanted them.

On 17 March 2003, the GSC issued the Georgetown Living Wage Report, a twelve-page
document outlining the group's demands in a living wage policy and discussing
Georgetown's historical and cultural background involving social justice, Jesuit
values, and the reality of campus workers' wage situation.

In 2004,
students met with the Advisory Committee on Business Practices, resulting in
promises for a small wage increase and health care for all workers.

January of 2005, the GSC organized a rally at the university, bringing students and
campus workers to talk about Georgetown's need to adopt a living wage for
workers and improve workers' rights. The rally involved posters, chanting
slogans, and speeches. In addition, speakers appealed to Georgetown University's
Catholic Jesuit mission and called on the administration to support the
campaign. The students also led a march on administrative buildings, taking
their posters to the university president's office, and finally entering a
Board of Directors Main Campus Budget Committee meeting to list the Living Wage
Coalition's demands. The students entered the meeting unannounced and called
for an increase in workers' wages to $14.93 per hour, job security, access to
university resources, the right to organize with card check neutrality, and
transparency in the administration’s implementation of a living wage. The board
members were receptive and told the students that the matter would be further

In March
of 2005, the LWC submitted a Living Wage Policy Proposal to the administration,
giving them a deadline of 14 March by which they would have to respond to LWC's
demands. The proposal contained the demands from January's march along with
explanations of Georgetown's ethical obligations to provide a living wage for
its workers and details on living wage in Washington, D.C.

When the University administration did
not meet this deadline, the students decided to take more direct action. On
15 March 2005, twenty-six students began a hunger strike in order to bring
attention to the need for immediacy in responding to living wage concerns. The
hunger strike went on for nine days, during which the striking students
reported difficulty functioning and concentrating, with one student taken to
the hospital. GSC organized frequent rallies and marches to administrative
offices with support from the American Federation
of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO),
Catholic Labor Network, Joslyn Williams of Metro Washington Central Labor
Council, and many other labor groups.

On 22 March, campaigners held a large rally in Georgetown's Red Square, gathering union
representatives, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes, Vice President of AFL-CIO
Richard Trumka, and others. When President DeGioia did not come out to meet
with the protesters, Williams threatened to join the students' hunger strike if
the administration did not give in by midnight of 23 March 23. On 23 March, many
students returned to protest outside the president's office, and by 10:30 pm,
the administration broadcast a new wage policy, ending the hunger strike.

University's Advisory Committee on Business Practices (ACBP) issued the Just
Employment Policy, promising an increase in total compensation for full-time
workers over the next two years. The minimum in 2005 was $11.33 per hour; the
Policy promised an increase to $13.00 by 1 July 2005, and an increase to
$14.00 by 1 July 2007. The Policy's increases still fell short of the $14.93
demanded, and card check neutrality was not given to the workers.

coverage both on and off campus claimed a secure victory for the campaign by
the end of March 2005. However, as the year went on, it became clear that the
administration had not made the promised changes. In the fall of 2005, the LWC
pushed the Georgetown administration to require its contractors to guarantee
their workers the right to unionize with card check neutrality.

Due to
this failure to meet the movement’s demands, GSC continued its campaign. On
1 February 2006, students in GSC and campus workers were blocked from entering
an ACBP meeting where they planned to protest for unionizing rights and a living
wage, which were still not guaranteed to janitors after the Just Employment
Policy of 2005. Georgetown Department of Public Safety officers restrained the
protesters and kept them from interrupting the meeting.

In March
of 2006, twenty Democratic members of Congress signed a letter to President
DeGioia to ask him to support the workers' unionization rights. By the end of
the spring semester, the janitors were given the right to organize through card
check and they formed a union.


The Georgetown University students' living wage campaign was influenced by Harvard University students' similar living wage campaign in 2001. (1)


"Georgetown University." Living Wage Action Coalition.
"Just Employment Policy for Georgetown University." Office of Public Affairs.
Murray, Rachel. "Students & Workers United: Living Wage Campaign Victory at Georgetown University." Left Turn. Aug. 1, 2005.
WASLEY, P. (2006). Lawmakers intervene in labor dispute. The Chronicle of Higher Education, 52(26), 0-A24. Retrieved from

Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy

Fatimah Hameed, 03/02/2013