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Illinois: Living Wage Campaign plans its next move
The Daily Northwestern
Safiya Merchant

October 7, 2011
View the Original Article

Northwestern's Living Wage Campaign's next project will be to bring the ‘real food movement,' which is intended to provide more healthful and environmentally conscious options, the group announced at a forum Thursday.

At the forum, which more than 20 people attended, the campaign provided a detailed summary of its recently ratified contract for all of NU's subcontracted food service workers, including reduced and free health care and a minimum $10 wage. Although the campaign is still fighting for a living wage for all NU subcontracted workers, it also wants to work towards providing fresh, natural food to NU students, campaign chairman Kellyn Lewis said.

"Food service workers and real food, you can't separate them," the Weinberg senior said.

Lewis said they were partially inspired to join the real food movement after the Real Food Challenge, a campaign whose many aims include teaching college students the importance of locally-grown and natural food, came to the Evanston campus earlier this year. Once the LWC realized other NU organizations were also championing the cause, such as the Students for Ecological and Environmental Development and Northwestern Community Development Corps, it decided to join the movement.

According to the Real Food Challenge's website, real food is "a food system ... that fundamentally respects human dignity and health, animal welfare, social justice and environmental sustainability."

Lewis said the real food movement will also help the LWC connect and collaborate with other social justice groups on campus.

"We sort of created a space in the social justice community," he said.

By being a part of the movement, he added, the campaign will no longer be, "a separate entity."

Even though it wants to add real food to its cause, the LWC's primary goal — a living wage for all NU subcontracted workers — is yet to be fulfilled. At the forum, Lewis and other speakers recounted the campaign's accomplishments thus far and emphasized the need for continued efforts.

Tom Breitsprecher, lead cook for Willard and chief shop stewart for UNITE HERE Local 1 union, said while the campaign fought for two years for a solitary wage, one that would support an individual, unions used to fight for the family wage, which would support a family. Although the gains from the LWC are a step in the right direction, he said, the wage NU workers will be getting will be less than both the solitary and the family wage.

"As far as I'm concerned, we're still at the starting line," Breitsprecher said.

Despite the work that needs to be done, some NU students see the new contracts as progress.

"Social justice is an important part of all our lives," McCormick sophomore Brandan Matthews said. "(The results are) great starting points for the campaign, a great model for what's to come. They show the strength of Northwestern students as we recognize."

Lewis said the LWC is still figuring out its next step in promoting the "real foods" movement.