Major Victory at Ithaca College/Sodexo on Living Wage Front!

The Tompkins County Workers’ Center is very pleased today to report the success of the student-community campaign to win a living wage for over 100 food service workers at Ithaca College. Beginning in September, according to an announcement by Ithaca College and the Sodexo Corporation, these workers will be paid at least the Tompkins County Living Wage, currently $11.11/hour.

Those IC dining workers paid presently above the Living Wage, will see a commensurate increase as well.

Workers currently are paid as little as $8.19/hour, so the increase will total over 35 percent!

The Workers’ Center commends the Ithaca College administration for its responsiveness to the student demands and community concern. But we mostly applaud the determined Ithaca College-based student group, the Labor Initiative Promoting Solidarity (LIPS), which began raising the issue of a Living Wage for all workers at Ithaca College in the fall of 2010. These students helped mobilize student and faculty support and built a powerful case that the Ithaca College administration could not ignore.

The Workers’ Center worked closely with the students and mobilized community support to help build a community coalition that brought substantial pressure also to bear on the College. This coalition included religious leaders, government officials, IC faculty, student organizations, labor unions and many others.

“We are extremely proud that IC has made the decision to pay a living wage to all its employees,” stated Herb Engman, Town of Ithaca Supervisor. As a certified Living Wage Employer ourselves, The Town is overjoyed that Ithaca College has joined the ranks of those of us who wish to set high standards for all our workers.”

Pastor Rich Rose of the First Baptist Church of Ithaca says, “This is not only a great victory for Sodexo workers, but also a reflection of the commitment of the people of Tompkins County to a Living Wage. It is indicative of the power of community to affect corporate America. Obviously, Sodexo wants to have a positive image in the community and on the Ithaca College campus. And it is another example of how important the voice of community members is in influencing corporate policy.”

Martha Robertson, Chair of the Tompkins County Legislature, said: “This is very welcome news! It’s terrific that Ithaca College and Sodexo have found a way to do the right thing, which will benefit the whole community. I especially appreciate the hard work of Ithaca College students and the Workers Center for bringing this issue to the table and sticking with it.”

Says Kiera Lewis, leader of the LIPS, “This is a huge victory, but it is just a first step. We hope that workers will continue trust and support initiatives and speak up because we did change things. This is what the Labor Initiative is for: bringing, different constituencies together for sustainable initiatives.”

“We look forward to seeing other large employers in the Ithaca area follow IC’s lead in doing the right thing for their employees and agreeing to pay the Tompkins County Living Wage as well,” said Pete Meyers, Workers’ Center Coordinator.

The Workers’ Center works to insure that all workers are respected in the workplace, have a Living Wage, the right to organize, quality health care, housing, childcare, transportation, and access to healthy food and water, as guaranteed by the Declaration of Universal Human Rights as ratified by the United Nations in 1948. The Workers’ Center sees this victory at Ithaca College as but one small step towards the larger vision with which we hold.

“A final victory is an accumulation of many short-term encounters. To lightly dismiss a success because it does not usher in a complete order of justice is to fail to comprehend the process of achieving full victory. It underestimates the value of confrontation and dissolves the confidence born of a partial victory by which new efforts are powered.”–Martin Luther King, Jr., from ‘Where Do We Go From Here?: Chaos or Communiity” (MLK Community Build)