Living Wage and Health Care for UAW Workers Proves Urgent

 President Carmen Twillie Ambar, Oberlin College’s first Black president and just the second female president, shared with us all an impressively argued, 900-word announcement titled “Dining and Custodial Negotiations,” which reported that the College has proposed to, very shortly, cut every single one of its custodians and dining hall workers without warning, unceremoniously — a Trump-like “Get out of here, you’re all fired!”

President Ambar’s defense of her actions is quite solidly based upon One Oberlin, which is the name of the final report produced by the Academic and Administrative Program Review. The president offers an unassailable argument for the protection of the College’s core value: that of “educating our students for lives of meaning,” as she wrote in the announcement.

These cuts are projected at some time in the future to generate more than $2 million a year in savings. Moreover, the College holds that, although it might have to pay Gibson’s Bakery an astounding award once approaching $50 million — perhaps a lot more if it loses its appeal — these firings have nothing to do with the trial’s outcome.

The declaration strains credulity far too much because just $2 million of that $50 million would produce the savings expected from all these job eliminations, saving the jobs of many Blacks, people of color, women, et cetera — all of whom, though now treated, if not actually viewed, as expendable, have always been as loyal to Oberlin as any other class or section of the College. They are, indeed, our most vulnerable.

The president is absolutely right to ensure that educating our students for meaningful lives remains sacrosanct. Surely, all alumni and current students would unhesitatingly do all we can to help those less fortunate among us, so near to us. It’s the least we can do to breathe life into our words about “educating our students for lives of meaning.”

Would the president at least ask our Board of Trustees to reconsider the employee cuts if the College wins its appeal and does not have to pay the full $44 million to Gibson’s? You are in no position to demand, but ask.

But regardless of the outcome, would the president at least ask our Board of Trustees not to hire any vendor who will not guarantee that their employees will be paid a living wage and receive health care? Again, you are an employee and can’t demand, but you can ask your employers to hold the candle high in support of “educating our students for lives of meaning.”

What is the College’s core value — not just our students’ — if not a willingness to stand for a living wage and health care for any human being, but especially for those eager to clean our toilets and cook our food?