President Tom Rochon met with members of Ithaca College’s Labor Initiative in Promoting Solidary Dec. 9 and agreed to look into the issue of a living wage for Sodexo workers on campus.
About 20 members of LIPS marched from IC Square through the academic quad to Rochon’s office in the Peggy Ryan Williams building, carrying signs and playing noisemakers and instruments. Seven representatives of LIPS met with the president to discuss their campaign for an all-campus living wage.
Labor Initiative in Promoting Solidarity is a group on campus working to bring attention to labor issues in Tompkins County, Ithaca and at the college. One of their initiatives is to ensure all members of the college are granted a living wage.
Senior Kiera Lewis, president of the club, said she was excited members of the group could meet with Rochon for the first time.
“We just decided that we should celebrate the fact that we have an appointment with the administration and the president to talk about a living wage for dining services,” Lewis said.
After the meeting, Lewis said she thought the meeting ended on a positive note. She said Rochon and Brian McAree, vice president of student affairs and campus life, agreed to investigate labor issues on campus.
“In the end, they agreed they would take these thoughts into consideration and that he would be open to meeting with us again in the spring,” Lewis said.
Lewis said Rochon suggested the group try to gather 3,000 students to sign a petition agreeing students would be willing to pay a certain number of extra dollars to raise the living wage for Sodexo workers at the college. Lewis also said the president suggested rallying more students to participate.
Rochon said it was a helpful meeting.
“They gave us some information,” Rochon said. “I was very glad to receive it, and the vice president and I will be following up with our Sodexo partners to make sure we understand if the information is accurate and what the context around the information might be.”
While a few members of LIPS met with the president, several more rallied outside the building.
Steve Farrell, a resident of Cortland County, said he learned about the labor initiative from a student at the college. Farrell said his experiences as a letter carrier for the U.S. Postal Office has taught him the importance of a living wage.
“I think students realize that the poor in this country and the world need to be lifted up,” Farrell said. “Living wage lifts the whole country up.”
Sophomore Danielle Prizzi, a member of LIPS, said it’s important for students to pressure the college on this issue.
“We, as students, are helping to support this human rights issue,” Prizzi said. “This is something that is so close to home. If we have the ability to fight and make a difference, why should you not be involved? These are people who we are paying to work at our college; our money is going to support this and makes us a factor and player in this.”
Sophomore Lyndsey Lyman, who is also a member of the initiative, said students should be aware of the treatment of college employees.
“They’re people,” Lyman said. “They have families, they have lives and they have meals to pay. They have feelings and they need respect. This is not just a bureaucratic issue. It’s a human rights issue.”