Is It Just Work?: Exploring Living Wages in American Jesuit Higher Education
Despite financial constraints and increasing competition, a small but growing number of American higher education institutions (HEIs) have addressed social sustainability on their campuses by ensuring employees, and sometimes employees of service contractors, are paid a living wage. Some institutions have enacted a written policy codifying their commitment to a living wage, while others have adopted a living wage as an unwritten practice — in which contractors are typically not required to pay their employees a living wage. This paper provides an exploration of these policies and practices in American Jesuit HEIs through an analysis of issues and assumptions regarding just employment, minimum wage, and living wage policies and practices. Empirically, the paper explores the extent to which Jesuit institutions have enacted their Catholic identity and Jesuit values and ideals with regard to how employees and contractors’ employees are compensated and treated through living wage policies, just employment policies, or unwritten living wage practices. Since each U.S. Jesuit institution has a unique location, the paper compares the local minimum wage to the local living wage for each institution. The paper concludes with a discussion of the moral obligation of treating all workers with dignity, and the potential contributions that business faculty in Jesuit institutions can make toward facilitating these discussions within and beyond their institutions.