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Trustees reject living wage proposal

Dec. 14, 2007

KALAMAZOO--Acting at their meeting today, Western Michigan University trustees voted down a proposed policy mandating that contracts for work done on campus adhere to a "living wage" standard.

The motion to adopt the policy proposed by a student group was rejected by a vote of seven to one, with the sole vote for the policy cast by Trustee Larry Tolbert of Kalamazoo. Following the vote, four of the eight trustees, including Tolbert, spoke briefly about the reasons for their votes. All reiterated their commitment to fairness, but pointed to problems with the language, detail and breadth of the policy proposed. The trustees praised the students for working to raise awareness of the issue.

Custodians in WMU residence halls, who work for an independent contractor, are the only workers whose pay would have been affected under the living wage policy proposed. The proposed policy defined a living wage as $9.50 per hour with health insurance or $11.50 per hour without insurance.

Before their vote, trustees were given results of a recently concluded survey of student opinion on living wage and WMU policy. The survey was conducted at the request of the trustees, following a presentation by student-proponents of a living wage at the board's October meeting.

About 75 percent of the more than 1,800 students who responded to the survey said they agreed the University should adopt a living wage policy. By a two-to-one majority, however, students disagreed with the idea that an estimated $100 in additional residence hall fees should be assessed to pay for a living wage policy.

Trustees also were apprised of a vote by the Western Student Association, WMU's student government body. By a vote of 20 to 19, the WSA passed a resolution in support of the policy Oct. 25.

Media contact: Cheryl Roland, (269) 387-8400, cheryl.roland@wmich.edu

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