The University is like a city in itself. Its population consists of far more than academics, administrators and students; there are thousands of laborers here, too.

Be they groundskeepers, technical support staff or cafeteria workers, this place runs thanks to the labor of these largely invisible individuals. For these people, the term temporary worker is inaccurate, undermining the dedicated service they provide.

Recently we were informed that the conditions these instrumental community members work under would not make the student body proud. Temporary workers here are denied essential benefits. While they have MCards, basic services, like the use of the University Health Services or enrollment in University health care programs, are unavailable to these workers.

Many temporary laborers are fired every three months, only to be re-hired weeks later, prohibiting them from attaining benefits or full-time status, no matter how long they have been employed. Some workers’ wages are permanently capped far below a living wage. Quite often, whole staffs are fired after a determined number of years only to be replaced by a new staff that will work for a price far below the old staff’s wages.

As students, we are part of the same community as these workers. We must address this problem. Our tuition goes toward new buildings, athletics and administrative salaries. While University President Mary Sue Coleman makes more than $700,000 a year, we are somehow unable to provide a living wage to the thousands of other workers that enable the University to function. Workers are routinely denied the respect that laborers at a world-class university deserve.

We are part of the campus community, and it is our responsibility to protect the rights of those who work with and for us every day. Students for a Democratic Society plans to work alongside these laborers in promoting a change in University practices. We need to see the day when temporary workers are allotted the same benefits as every other member of the campus community.

This semester we will be organizing around this issue, which inhabits every crevice of our campus. From cafeteria meals served at Bursley to emptied trashcans in Mason Hall, the work of these individuals affects all of our lives. They deserve to be treated with respect.

As students, we have the power to change the University’s practice as well as its obligation to make sure that all members of this community are treated equally. At this very moment, many workers here on campus are unionizing for the first time. Students for a Democratic Society will back them every step of the way.

At the University there are many groups focusing on issues of social responsibility. Students are fighting to preserve the diverse student body, to focus on researching new energy alternatives and to ensure the rights of workers at home and abroad. On March 15, these groups will be coming together to create “Campus Unite” to show the University Board of Regents how we feel and to take the first steps to a socially accountable University.

Join us at the Cube on March 15 to help create a University that you will be proud to represent.

Nathaniel Voss, Syma Khan, Kelly Simmons are LSA juniors and Alexandra Lazar is an LSA sophomore. They are members of Students for a Democratic Society.

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