Vanderbilt University, in Nashville, TN, is one of the richest institutions in the country, with tuition of $60,000, an endowment of 3.7 billion dollars, and a yearly operating revenue of 3.6 billion dollars. The top 20 executives together make over 24 million dollars a year. In 2009, Vanderbilt had 6 of the 10 highest paid university executives in the country. The founder of Bain Capital sits on the Board of Trust.
Yet, Vanderbilt dining workers typically make $16,500 a year, over six thousand dollars below the poverty line for a family of four. Dining workers here have been doing some amazing organizing and speaking out to end poverty and summer layoffs. Vanderbilt lays off dining workers for nearly fourth months every year and denies all their unemployment insurance claims under a Tennessee legal exemption. When the dining workers sent Chancellor Zeppos a letter asking him to come have dinner with them in one of their homes, he refused, saying he didn’t want to “sidetrack negotiations”.
Workers here are illegally surveilled by managers who take photos of them off-work-time meeting with students and organizers. Administrators monitor student email and send spies to union meetings. Managers have filmed student/worker meetings, and gone through the trash afterwards. Workers have faced intimidation by high-level administrators, who bring along with them police officers to rallies being held inside. Incredibly, last year during a May Day rally, over thirty police officers showed up at a rally. Students have been followed outside actions and screamed at by high-level administrators. Chancellor Zeppos says “workers are exaggerating” about their conditions, and that Vanderbilt is “above the standard” in “pay and respect”. What do you think?
Send a message to Chancellor Zeppos: poverty and lies have no place in the Vanderbilt community.
The bravery of workers continuing to speak out under these conditions is inspiring. Speak out with them.
Organized & United for Respect at Vanderbilt (OUR Vanderbilt) is a community alliance founded and led by workers, and students in solidarity; also involving faculty, and the faith community in their organizing.