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Week of 3.30.07

A Living Wage

This week, NOW examines the fight for a "living wage"—the pay needed to cover an actual week's worth of living—on the Nashville, Tennessee campus of Vanderbilt University. The chancellor there earns $1.2 million a year, the endowment is $3 billion, but some of the school's lowest-paid workers—groundskeepers, custodians, and dining service workers—earn less than $8.00 an hour.

Is the university really sensitive to their basic needs? NOW Senior Correspondent Maria Hinojosa reports that with the help of student activists and public figures like actor Danny Glover, the workers recently won a wage increase.

"We have our home here. And I'm fighting—we're both fighting to hold on to it," says Vanderbilt custodian Dewayne Arbogast. "And the only way we can do that is to make sure Vanderbilt continues to pay us adequately."

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NOW travels to Nashville to talk with workers, university staff, and activists about the striking gap not just between Vanderbilt's budget allocations, but between disparate people who share a common loyalty to campus and school.

Related Links:

» Vanderbilt University: Living Wage Campaign

» Vanderbilt responds to the NOW report

» ACORN: Living Wage Campaign

» NOW: Janitor Justice

» NOW: State-by-State: Minimum Wage

NOW Topic Search:

» Employment/Labor, Income & Inequality, Search All

Interview: Mark Orlowski

Mark Orlowski As head of the Sustainable Endowments Institute, Mark Orlowski thinks colleges and universities should do more than educate tomorrow's leaders. He wants them to take a leadership role themselves in all things "green" by promoting sustainability--meeting society's needs today, without sacrificing the earth's future. Only three years out of college himself, Orlowski grades universities on how green their campuses are, as well as their investment decisions. He is pushing universities to invest their portfolios--some to the tune of millions of dollars, others in the billions--in companies that are on the right track in terms of the environment and human rights.

But learning more about these investments has not been easy, Orlowski tells NOW's David Brancaccio. "We found that two thirds of schools don't provide even basic information about where the endowments are invested," he said. Orlowski hopes to change this, and is rallying students, professors and college administrators throughout the country to help pressure America's universities to "think global, act local."

Related Links:

» Sustainable Endowments Institute

» NOW: College Sustainability Report Card

NOW Topic Search:

» Business/Corporate Ethics, Education, Environment/Energy, Search All