A better Tulane, a better New Orleans
Wednesday February 20th 2019

Where’s the Progress?

On March 24, 2010, the Tulane University Solidarity Committee (now known as the Peace Action Committee) sent a letter to President Cowen telling him about our concerns that campus workers were not being paid living wages, were being mistreated and disrespected by their management, and were being intimidated as they sought to form a union. On April 6, 2010, President Cowen responded. In his response he made it clear that he does not consider Sodexo employees on campus a part of the Tulane community. He also stated that:

“Your request for Tulane to consider a Labor Code of Conduct for its outside vendors will be forwarded to the Social Issues Committee of the University Senate and to the university’s legal staff for review and consideration. This process is consistent with how we handle similar requests.”

Throughout last semester and the summer, we continued to stress the urgency of this issue, asking President Cowen to help us in moving the dialogue about labor standards on campus forward. On September 27, we delivered a streamlined Code of Conduct, hoping this would expedite the process. After almost 6 months, we wrote President Cowen, asking him to take some action on the Labor Code of Conduct by October 4th. Cowen didn’t meet that deadline, or even acknowledge it.

We were extremely surprised, then, when on October 8th, the Tulane Hullabaloo reported that: “Mike Hogg, vice president of student affairs, approved Thursday’s rally but said a policy proposal has not yet been submitted. ‘The normal process for review is for them to submit the proposal to the Social Issues Committee of the Faculty Senate,’ Hogg said.”

You can see for yourselves that we submitted a policy proposal on March, 24, 2010, and that President Cowen himself said that it had been forwarded to the Social Issues Committee. So why, on October 8, 2010, is the administration saying publicly that they have not received a policy proposal? We think it’s clear that the administration is trying to stall progress on this issue. After all, a delegation of workers that went to Cowen’s office over the summer were told that the next time they could meet with him was in 2012.

We have also tried to work directly with the Social Issues Committee, but after trying to set up a meeting to discuss the progress of the Code of Conduct, we were informed by the committee chair that “I don’t have any news that I can share with you at this point, so there’s no point in a meeting; when we set up the hearings, I’ll be sure to let you know. Thanks for your interest.” This, almost seven months after we submitted a proposed Labor Code of Conduct which was almost immediately forwarded to the Social Issues Committee.

The lack of attention this administration has given to the extremely serious questions about working conditions for subcontracted employees on campus is unacceptable. The leaders of our University cannot ignore a vital segment of our community simply because they work for us via a Sodexo contract, nor do we believe it is appropriate for the administration to stall and ignore students have nothing but a genuine interest in helping to make our University the place it ought to be.

If you think it’s time for Scott Cowen to quit sidelining this issue, send him an e-mail (email hidden; JavaScript is required), sign our petition, and sign up for our mailing list.

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