In 2002, Vanderbilt Negotiated a new contract with the union, Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA), representing staff members in plant operations, housekeeping, food preparation, the power plant, among other things.  The contract negotiated includes a wage schedule for minimum and maximum hourly pay for each job description.  Of particular concern to Living Income for Vanderbilt Employees (LIVE) is the minimum, or base, hourly wage paid in each job description.  The complete base wage schedule for the three years covered in the contract is illustrated below:

 

Pay Grade

2002

2003

2004

1

$6.50

$6.50

$6.50

2

$6.50

$6.50

$6.50

3

$6.50

$6.50

$6.50

4

$6.90

$7.14

$7.39

5

$7.50

$7.76

$8.03

6

$8.79

$9.10

$9.42

7

$9.25

$9.57

$9.90

8

$9.25

$9.57

$9.90

9

$11.07

$11.46

$11.86

The jobs covered in each “Pay Grade” are included in the appendix of this report.

 

            The most important feature of this schedule is how low wages are at Vanderbilt.  Five of the nine pay grades have a base wage less than the livable wage standard for Nashville.

            Also remarkable is the disparity in the rate of change in the base wage between those at the top of the pay scale and those at the bottom.  Surprisingly, every single pay grade received a raise in base pay except the lowest three pay grades.  In fact, the higher the pay grade, the higher the annual raise in base pay.  It is unusual for a base wage to stagnate for three continuous years.  This is the information in graph form:

On November 15, 2004, Vanderbilt will negotiate with LIUNA to determine the wages of Vanderbilt’s employees.  Vanderbilt has a 5-year contract with the union; November 15 is the re-negotiation point 3 years after the original signing date.  LIUNA negotiates for all Vanderbilt workers eligible to be union members; the contract affects all workers whether they are official union members or not.  A vast majority of the members are higher-paid skilled laborers; as a majority, this sector of employees has a louder voice at the negotiating table.

In Nashville, a full-time worker would need to earn approximately $11.00 per hour to maintain a small family with the bare minimum essentials (housing, clothing, food, etc).  This dollar amount is called a “living wage.”  With Vanderbilt’s heath benefits, a university employee would need to earn approximately $9.50 per hour to earn a living wage.  The lowest-paid employees at Vanderbilt currently make $6.50 per hour. 

At nearby Belmont University, the lowest-paid worker currently makes $9.78 per hour—a living wage with their benefits package.

Living Income for Vanderbilt Employees (formerly Support for a Unified Vanderbilt) was conceived in the Spring of 2002 by a group of Vanderbilt students. The students were encouraged by a few Vanderbilt employees who had heard about the successful living wage campaign at Harvard University.  LIVE (SUV) then began taking steps toward creating a better work environment at Vanderbilt, with the goal of a living wage as a central element to the campaign. LIVE continues to work to create an environment of mutual respect and equality within the Vanderbilt community and hopes to gain a wage raise during the upcoming November negotiations.

LIVE meets in the Community Partnership House (behind Branscomb Quadrangle) at 6:30 PM on Tuesdays. All are welcome to attend!