A Wesleyan Student Assembly (WSA) resolution endorsing a student workers’ bill of rights passed unanimously on Sunday, May 5. The bill of rights, which was primarily written by Peer Advocates for Student Workers (PAWS), calls for the formation of a Student Workers’ Rights Oversight Committee (SWROC). The bill of rights has yet to be ratified by the administration.
Throughout the year, PAWS has been advocating for student workers and working with them to bring concerns about working condition to employers. Co-leader of PAWS Emma Rose Borzekowski ’19, who is one of the primary sponsors of the resolution, identified a need for a document to reference when students raise complaints about their rights being violated.
“Last summer, the co-leader of PAWS [Tay-Shaun Lawrence ’19] and I were talking and we were starting to build PAWS,” Borzekowski said. “We were looking to see what existing regulations the school had for student workers because, in many ways, what PAWS is doing requires building student worker power, with or without existing regulation. But if we had something on the books that we could point to, we thought that that would be like a really useful tool, and so we started looking around to see what we had written down and there’s really not that much.”
Currently, there are two rights identified under the Student Employment section of the University’s website: the right to know what is expected of a student worker’s supervisor and the right to bring any problems or concerns to their employers.
The resolution endorses a bill of rights that is heavily based off of federal work-study guidelines but generalizes the protections to all student workers. The bill of rights also takes into account the conversations PAWS has had with student workers over the course of the year.
“We have a lot of things that are specific, but the broad tenants of it are that we want safe, informative, respectful workplaces, and that can be open to anyone’s interpretation,” Borzekowski said.
One right that the bill outlines, per federal work-study guidelines, is the requirement that all jobs post a job description that includes information like the name and classification of the position, the department in which the student will be employed, and the duties and responsibilities associated with the position. This information makes it easier for students to refuse to perform tasks that are not in their job description.
“Student workers have the right to review this contract before taking the job and the right to refuse work that falls outside the bounds of written or oral contracts without fear of retaliation by their employer,” the bill of rights reads.
Going beyond federal work-study guidelines, some specifics rooted in student concerns are mandates for paid sick leave for both mental and physical health, as well as graduated pay.
“Students who have worked in a workplace for more than one semester should gain access to a graduated pay-scale, with increases in wages for each semester the student is employed by the organization,” the bill of rights reads. “Student workers deserve to be paid for the work they do and each accumulative semester, they gain more experience and are more efficient workers. Student workers who have been working longer do work faster, do more difficult tasks within the workplace, and oversee the workplace, helping other workers.”
The resolution, with unanimous support from the WSA, will be delivered to the administration some time within the next week.
“We’re hoping that by showing that there’s a lot of support behind it, [the administration] will recognize the need for this document and ratify it and adopt it into University policy,” WSA Student Life Committee (SLC) Chair and a primary sponsor of the resolution Justin Ratkovic ’20 said. “If not, we will keep working with student workers so that they know their rights, even if they aren’t like administratively recognized, and keep fighting until student worker rights are ratified and respected, and protected.”
Jocelyn Maeyama can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.