By Sally Greenberg, NCL Executive Director
This weekend I had the honor of speaking to the Roosevelt Institute Campus Network (RICN) at its Midwest meeting on the Northwestern Campus in the Chicago suburb of Evanston. The RICN is an organization of progressive college students – “millenials” – an exciting generation of young people with a social reform agenda. RICN’s publication “Blueprint for the Millenial America” is a wonderful recitation of the issues that are important to this group of young activists – economic and racial justice, LGBT equality, college affordability, green jobs, environmental protection, access to quality health care for all Americans, and a path to legal immigration for those seeking opportunity in the United States.
I joined a list of speakers that included Gillian Sorenson of the United Nations Foundation talking about the U.S. policy on international human rights and the hope and expectation that the United States would live up to the highest standards of human rights (though it has too often not done so in the past), Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), whose district includes Northwestern University, fresh off the plane from the brinksmanship of the House leadership who at the last minute struck to avert a government shutdown. Also speaking were Damon Silvers of the AFL-CIO, who is always an insightful thinker and great speaker. I reminded students that NCL’s Florence Kelley met and inspired her greatest protégé when speaking on a college campus – Mt. Holyoke – where Frances Perkins heard about the work of the National Consumers League and joined the organization out of college.
And then we had a chance to learn from the students – we heard from group at the Northwestern Campus for cafeteria workers.
The Northwestern Living Wage Campaign is a well organized, well researched and coordinated effort to ensure that the huge multi million dollar food services like Sedexo and Aramark are paying their workforce a living wage. The campaign defines a living wage as “an hourly wage standard that takes into account the local cost of housing, health care and other expenses necessary to support a family.” I predict they will win the day at the campus, despite opposition from the NU college president Morton Schapiro, who himself makes over a million dollars, the students said. Even the student newspaper editorial page (shame on them!) opposed the NLWC. But the justice of their cause – the 1,300 student names they’ve gotten on their petition – shows the odds are in their favor.
Thanks to the RICN for pulling these diverse voices together for the Midwestern conference. These are the progressive students of the future and NCL looks forward to a long and productive relationship with them.