Emory students stage peaceful protest outside president’s office

UPDATE Thursday:  This morning, Emory spokesman David C. Payne said, “The sit-in ended around 8 p.m last evening when the students left the building. There are no planned meetings between the students and Dr. Wagner at this time although he has offered to meet with a small group of three to four representatives if they so choose.”

About two dozen Emory students protesting the treatment of subcontracted employees on the DeKalb campus are sitting outside the president’s office in an effort to confront him over what they deem the university’s indifference to the workers’ plight.

(Here is some history on the issue from the Emory Wheel and here is a piece by two students explaining their stand. And here is a response to a student about the allegations of worker mistreatment by the food service company from Emory President James Wagner.)

“These workers are not protected by the code of conduct of Emory…by an ethically engaged university. They have no avenue of redress,” said Laura Emiko Soltis, one of the students lining the hallway outside President Wagner’s office at this moment. “Emory is one of the largest employers in Atlanta and this is something that Emory needs to take seriously.”

“A group of 25-30 people are sitting in the fourth floor corridor of the University’s administration building outside his office, but is not true that they have taken over his office,” confirmed Emory spokesman David C. Payne. ” The group includes off campus visitors as well. He is out of the office today and we do not expect him back. The university’s business is continuing without interruption. We are trying to set up a meeting with a select number of student representatives for tomorrow.”

But student organizer Soltis says, “We are going to stay as long as it takes; he has been avoiding us for a year and a half.”

If President Wagner doesn’t show up today, the students plan to occupy the building overnight. But what if Emory refuses to allow them to continue their protest and orders them to leave?

“Each student is going to decide whether they are willing to be arrested,” says Soltis, adding that at least three students are willing to face arrest. (Emory is going to get back to me on what it will do about the students spending the night outside Wagner’s office in the administration building. Will post as soon as Emory responds.)

“We are on our computers. We are singing songs,” Soltis said. “We are waiting for the president to tell us if he is on the side of the workers and students and an ethically engaged university.”

Emory farms out some of its services, including food service, to private contractors, creating what the students consider a two-tier system of worker rights and status on the campus. The contractual employees do not enjoy the benefits or protections afforded Emory direct employees, they say.

The students want Emory to end its multi-million dollar dining services contract and adopt standards to ensure fair treatment of subcontracted workers on campus.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

143 comments Add your comment

Dr NO

April 20th, 2011
2:57 pm

“The contractual employees do not enjoy the benefits or protections afforded Emory direct employees, they say.’

Apparently these highly educated eggheads fail to understand the term, Sub-Contractor. Geesh…this is just silly and upon the return of the Pres he should tell them where to go.

oldtimer

April 20th, 2011
3:24 pm

Maybe they need more to do…

James Conway

April 20th, 2011
3:35 pm

The point of this, one assumesy, is that they are saying the workers are not compensated adequately. because they are not W-2 employees. This could easily be solved by the students calculating the approximate amount the workers are being underpaid (according to them) and then the students donating an equal amount to the Emory General Fund.with stipulations on how the donations would be spent.

Somehow, I get the impression they want all of the students, even those who don’t agree with that solution, to share in extra costs. If I were an Emory student I know what I would think about that, but as an outsider I would be pleased for Emory students to pay more tuition so that the extra money could filter back through the local economy.

Lynn

April 20th, 2011
4:04 pm

Really, I thought this was America- One of the largest employees in an area cant pay fair wages or hire people full time. This is why you have substandard services in places like Emory. Treat people fairly and maybe they will treat your customers with that same respect!!!!!!!!!!
I forgot this is the land of Repubs. who will give tax breaks and approve the original Stimulus to
Big Business. Pay people what they are worth.

Michael

April 20th, 2011
4:08 pm

Entities with general funds always re-purpose the money. Not the Ga General Assembly just renewed the $1 tax, oh, I mean “fee”, on tire disposal while saying the $1 does not have to go towards tire disposal.

Crass Realist

April 20th, 2011
4:09 pm

Oh my goodness. These poor downtrodden students…STANDING UP for the poor mistreated working class…what arrogance…

If the workers don’t like their position, then they are free to find employment elsewhere. Whatever happened to the concept of “work hard, get noticed, climb the ladder of success”? Respect is EARNED, not granted as an entitlement.

These students need to be taught a lesson in REAL WORLD business affairs.

Former Employee RIF'd While Pregnant

April 20th, 2011
4:10 pm

Emory regular employees aren’t protected either. Every year they RIF a hundred or so employees. The sub-contractors jobs are more stable than regular employees!

Ricardo Cabeza

April 20th, 2011
4:11 pm

Esmerelda,
If you are over there protesting instead of learning to be doctor, you and I will have a long, one-sided conversation the next time you come to hacienda for visit. I do not pay the Emory University my life savings for you to protest something that does not concern you. Now, get back to class senorita!
Love, Papa

Wes

April 20th, 2011
4:11 pm

Paying people more money will not necessarily bring better service to the students. This could increase the feeling of job security for these workers, and ultimately bring down the quality of service.

Fred

April 20th, 2011
4:11 pm

Proudly earning the title “Emroid”

Crass Realist

April 20th, 2011
4:12 pm

Hello, Lynn, sounds like you are part of the loser, er, working class. These people ARE being paid what they are worth. Survival of the Fittest and Natural Selection are taking place…keep looking over your shoulder.

jemory

April 20th, 2011
4:14 pm

as an Emory grad, i can say that Emory is full of a bunch of spoiled, idealistic brats who have never had to work a day in their lives and have nothing better to do than stage a sit in just for the hell of it. Emory students like these do not understand reason and rationality. they live in an idealistic world where everything is rainbows and lollipops.

Maureen Downey

April 20th, 2011
4:14 pm

@Wes. The issue is not just money, but also that the food service workers — at least according to students — are facing intimidation from their management over unionizing. In addition, the Emory students say these workers don’t get any transportation stipends from Emory, which defrays the MARTA cards of its own employees. They contend that the food service firm has a history of worker violations, and that Emory should not be doing business with them.
Maureen

JRHD

April 20th, 2011
4:14 pm

Wow, that’s funny. Emory, a private university, enters into a mutually agreed upon contract w/ sub-contractors to provide services to the university. The sub-contractors provide the service at the agreed upon price (in this case an hourly/weekly/monthly pay rate for their time) and they are duly compensated. If they don’t like the contract then they can ply their services somewhere else. No one is forcing them to provide those services to Emory. It is Emory’s right/duty to seek those services at the lowest possible cost. In order to keep costs down and remain competitive in the market place (and keep tuition costs from escalating more than they already have) Emory should engage in contracts that are fiscally responsible (LOW COST). If the students don’t like it then let them take their tuition monies elsewhere.

Kida Kidder

April 20th, 2011
4:18 pm

Incredible. I suspect the university attendees (”student” seems inapplicable) would likewise protest the increse in tuition and fees that would result if the independent contractors were university employees. Emory seems to have a two-tier “student” body as well–the learned and those who are “on [their] computers” and “singing [their] songs. Kids, skip the protest and hit the econ books.

Rachel

April 20th, 2011
4:18 pm

These college students understand exploitation, and they want Emory to rise above it. They are not fools; they understand there is a cost for being principled, and who will pay it.

We have whole industries in Georgia who base their profits on the use of illegal aliens. Society as a whole pays the price for this type of exploitation (school taxes, general taxes, uninsured casualty losses, …)

CobbParent

April 20th, 2011
4:19 pm

From the Wheel Article, a quote from a Sodexo employee – “It is common for a supervisor to show a total lack of respect for me and my co-workers,” she wrote. “We have been called incompetent in a meeting … we have been discouraged from using the bathroom when we need to. No one deserves to be treated this way.”

If that is what these students are upset about they are sure in for a big surprise when they go out and get jobs in big boy-and-girl land. And honestly, the higher up the ladder they climb the worse it gets (until you reach the top) because once you are on salary you really have no say at all in your life – at least the hourly folks get to go home at 5pm so the company doesn’t have to pay overtime.

Freedom From Insanity

April 20th, 2011
4:20 pm

Do the students not understand that the reason services are sub-contracted out is that it saves the company (in this case the University) substantial money. The University is not in the food preparation or service business – much like most companies who hire a sub-contactor to run kitchens and cafeterias in their buildings. If the students are looking to pay higher tuition, then maybe the workers will get more money, but I seriously doubt if most of the students are paying their own tuition. In fact, those that are on scholarship might lose that assistance if the university has to increase their payroll.

If they are so concerned about worker’s rights, let them go and protest at a chicken processing plant in north Georgia. That would be an eye-opener for them and a bit of real world experience.

EU grad

April 20th, 2011
4:22 pm

If EU is treating contract employees in a manner those contract employess do not deem appropriate, then thos contract employees are free to leave and seek better positions.

ir(Rational)

April 20th, 2011
4:26 pm

So, I assume that these students that are all about the worker’s rights would be perfectly fine with being kicked out of the university on honor code violations if they are arrested tonight? I mean, that seems “fair.”

Also, Lynn – really? Emory the land of Republicans? Wow, I didn’t think anyone was that “smart.”

Hootinanny Yum Yum

April 20th, 2011
4:27 pm

I generally reading anything that has “engaged” as a buzz word.

Wow!!! You mean the sub-contracted employees are prevented from seeking employment elsewhere that may have better benefits.

Emory. Cranking out Community Organizers at an alarming rate!!!!

James Conway

April 20th, 2011
4:28 pm

After reading other posts, I like mine as well or better than the rest. If the students want to help someone whom they feel is underpaid then they can contribute and bring the pay up to the standard they think is adequate. Please be considerate of your fellow students and don’t foist your ideas (problems, opinions, beliefs) on them. When you graduate please remember that idea when you are dealing with other real world problems.

Midtown_DD

April 20th, 2011
4:28 pm

Maybe the management of the contracting firms don’t need to make 400 times the wage of their employees? Maybe money should trickle down to those who actually do some work.

Emory alum

April 20th, 2011
4:29 pm

It is true that the university has more than a few spoiled rich kids, but at least they’re rich kids with a conscience who bring vigorous debate to their president’s door, instead of just stumbling to the nearest drink n’ drown.

Everyone’s learning something right now from the experience – even you and I. I’m glad there’s a school in town where smart people stir things up occasionally. If anything, they should probably be stirring things up a whole lot more.

Brenda

April 20th, 2011
4:29 pm

If you don’t like working at so-dex-ho then quit. By staying in a bad job you’re just punishing yourself. If you can’t do better than Sodexho then maybe you should have tried harder in school, just saying.

Freedom From Insanity

April 20th, 2011
4:32 pm

The comment about the workers not getting compensated with MARTA cards is amazing. The reason the sub-contractor is there is to avoid the expenses of these types of fringe benefits. They are not Emory employees, they are employees of the food service company and if the food service company gave them MARTA cards, they would simply increase the cost of their service to Emory. Basic business economics. I would suggest the students stop singing and look up their Econ. 101 notes – if they took that class!

If the students want to protest, there are plenty of logical things to protest against – how about starting with the “un-official” war in the middle east, the killing of our soldiers, the lack of integrity in the banking/mortgage industry…………on and on!

Emory Grad X 3

April 20th, 2011
4:36 pm

These students and the “plight” they have taken up on behalf of the poor, downtrodden subcontractors disgust me. Here is what the students should do: 1) Get your fannies back in class and learn something, focusing on business in the real world; 2) Let people who are poor and downtrodden defend themselves, as any self-respecting human being should; 3) Stop embarrassing Emory by being hopelessly idealistic at the age of 20+. By that time, I had been a Libertarian (aka, thinking Conservative) for nearly 8 years. Workers can, should and are morally obligated to defend themselves, not have some spoiled brat do their fighting for them.

VB

April 20th, 2011
4:36 pm

I’m sure their parents will be happy when the tuition is raised to accomodate this

Jan

April 20th, 2011
4:37 pm

Georgia is a ‘right to work’ state. I say fire all the trouble makers and start over. I bet they get as much respect as they deserve. There was a time for unions but it has passed. Just ask the employees at Eastern Airlines what a union did for them. It ran the company out of business.

(ir)Rational

April 20th, 2011
4:38 pm

Freedom From Insanity – That last paragraph would assume that the students were mentally capable of coming to a logical conclusion like that. At least then they would have a platform. Sometimes adults, presumably over the college age aren’t able to come to logical conclusions like that. Like saying that the guy in the executive office doesn’t work. Chances are he didn’t get there by not working, and has earned his salary.

TomB

April 20th, 2011
4:41 pm

Ah to be young again … and engaged in a cause … it is right of passage no matter

Native Atlantan

April 20th, 2011
4:41 pm

Oh Lynn…poor misguided Lynn. Apparently you have NO idea how the private sector works. Sub-contracting is the norm and if the students at Emory are will to pay MORE to bring the services in-house, then tee that up as a solution.

J Moore

April 20th, 2011
4:42 pm

Not only arrest the so-called “students”; but, also throw them out of the university. They need to be taught a serious lesson that actions have consequences. Also, they are at the university for a short time–they are not the owners!

GT81

April 20th, 2011
4:45 pm

hey kids, yes, KIDS….No one forced these workers to work at Emory. They agreed to accept what benefits were offered… when you grow up, you will realize this

Dwayne

April 20th, 2011
4:47 pm

I remember the cashier in Dooley’s Den with the beehive hairdo. She actually drove a Plymouth Satelliate … no kidding! Oh the memories, I was back on campus not long ago and was saddened at how much things have changed from the good old days of the late 70’s early 80’s, all the fancy air-conditioned dorms, food courts, etc that these students are spoiled with.

Native Atlantan

April 20th, 2011
4:48 pm

@Maureen: fighting AGAINST using a specific sub-contractor is dramatically different than fighting FOR the rights of the sub-con’s employees. Vendor selection is a procurement decision normally based on a set of requirements and pricing. Vendor continues to meet the requirements and all is well with Emory. Vendor stops meeting the requirement, Emory takes action. How the vendor TREATS its employees is or no concern to Emory, or shouldn’t be.

Interestingly, this is coming from a progressive….but one who works in the real world.

Bill

April 20th, 2011
4:51 pm

Don’t arrest them….have them all serve a semester on the budget committee

Emory Alum

April 20th, 2011
4:53 pm

When you current Emory students get out into the real world and see how the world really works, please let me know your thoughts on this matter ten years down the road and whether or not you still have the same viewpoint. Unbelievable.

woodrow

April 20th, 2011
4:55 pm

Capitalism is a fickle beast. The system bends to benefit some at the expense of others. I think P.T. Barnum said ‘there is a sucker born every minute.’ If we cannot cheat workers, who do we cheat? That’s directly from the Walmart code of business.

June Carter

April 20th, 2011
4:59 pm

@Crass Realist: Sitting at your computer insulting college kids online is one way of staying out of the “Real World,” however, it won’t prevent you from becoming evolutionarily irrelevant.

Joyce

April 20th, 2011
5:00 pm

Well…..Well… These students must be spoiled brats. Let me tell you what the University should do. Since, everyone is big on community service. Emory needs to adopt a policy that requires all students to work at least 40 hours during their four years (undergraduate). That would mean they would work 10 hours per year in places like the cafeteria then Emory would not have to contract it out. And, by the way the students would not get paid for this work. If a student is working his/her way through college, they would only have present a written paper about their job and count that as their sevice. You see alot of students at Emory do not realize the money their parents are spending to send them to school and the scarifices they are making for them. I have always wondered what happened to the graduates of Emory. You never see any of them that have made public school teachers. Now, I am not talking about those in the nursing or medical fields.
So you little children, go on back to your apartments and cool off. And by the way stop by Red Lobster and confidentally ask a waitress what he/ she makes per hour and how the tips are split. Don’t let anyone hear you talking or he/she will be fired. You think Emory workers have it bad. Go chase that rabbit!

I'm Just A Bill

April 20th, 2011
5:02 pm

College kids. God love them. Their world is so tiny and small and they have no real sense of what they are in for in just a couple of years. Too bad Emory does not prepare them for the real world.

Joyce

April 20th, 2011
5:05 pm

Work never hurt anyone. They need to get out in the real world. Because one day their little glass houses are going to shatter. And, I am afraid they will not know how to pick up the pieces.

Dooley's Ghost

April 20th, 2011
5:06 pm

Over/under on the number of these “protesters” whose parents are paying their tuition for them? Anyone…anyone?

Emory Alum

April 20th, 2011
5:07 pm

Do they have tip jars in the dining facilities? If not, put them there.

student

April 20th, 2011
5:09 pm

It’s simple really, the workers deserve a living wage. What this means is that they should be able to afford healthcare, rent, and food all at the same time. I know that sounds crazy and super demanding of a billion dollar company (sodexo) and a school that charges more than 30,000 per student (emory).

All americans should be proud that students are willing to fight for what’s right. To fight for the workers who make their food everyday and clean-up after them. It’s really the very least we can do.

wolfman

April 20th, 2011
5:14 pm

Wonder who they supported for President? These same students would also be upset it tuition went up.

Tom

April 20th, 2011
5:15 pm

Just curious here, are these sub-contractors that the students are feeling badly for, are they possibly Illegal immigrants? Just askin?? If so, they should not have been allowed to work there in the first place!!

Love ATL

April 20th, 2011
5:22 pm

Emory did the same thing with their bookstore contract. They had a great company that paid fair wages and gave great service and then ditched them for a very ordinary Barnes and Noble store that only pays minimum and has average service.

Pyro

April 20th, 2011
5:24 pm

Maybe they would be happier in a comunist country where “everyone is equal”….