The latest round of anti-labor thuggery is being whipped up by Duke campus publications. Witness the April, 1998 issue of the Duke Review. In an editorial following an article titled "Duke Dining Should Serve Students, Not Employees," we are told that "Duke has opted to look past certain employees' tendencies toward slothfulness, and instead, decided to reward them far more generously than their skills warrant.... One thing that we dislike is seeing the labor costs for the food we buy on a daily basis being twice as high as they ought to be. That's money coming out of your pockets, kids." The "kids" at the Review are gloating over the referendum which supported the Wendy's franchise, a move they consider their latest campus victory. (See main article)
To make matters even worse, Duke's "mainstream" student campus newspaper, the Chronicle, failed to get the story straight prior to the "referendum." At times, the Chronicle appeared as if it was in cahoots with the self-styled "conservatives" at the Review. For example, in "Dining Services Fails to Shine Among University's Excellence" (February 18, 1998), the claimeerily reminiscent of Terry Sanford's 1979 letterwas made that "Union workers make as much as $20 an hour, including benefits, for doing jobs that rate minimum wage on the competitive labor market. Even more startling is the fact that employees with enough seniority are given approximately 40 fully paid sick and vacation days a year. Employing people at rates so far above market levels lead to a whole host of problems whose net result is to deliver an inferior product." The union that represents many of the Dining Service workers, AFSCME local 77, was stunned by the Chronicle's glaring errors. In a public letter distributed across the campus, local 77 noted, "The editorial 'Dining Services fail to shine among University's excellence' was stated in such a manner that we cannot reasonably respond, except to offer the following information which was either not in the article or taken completely out of context." In brief, the union quickly noted that no worker in Dining Services makes anything near $20 an hour nor do they enjoy such a generous benefits package. It is stunning that in 1998, workers at Duke still have to remind their rich employers just how poor they really are simply to hold on to their jobs. Race plays a major role in the current debate over privatization. The Duke Review's "Gala Employee Bashing Issue" of last spring played the race card by using photographs of black workers taking breaks on campus to imply that Duke employees are overpaid and under worked. In addition, the Review's characterization of current Duke Dining Service employment as a "make-work project" subtly transforms hard-working African-American staffers at Duke into welfare recipients. This outrageous mockery of black employees on campus deserves to be called out for what it really is: racism, pure and simple.
Now, some people are mentally challenged, but not everyone is stupid. Where were the Chronicle's fact checkers when this nonsense about $20 an hour wages was being proof-read the evening before publication? When I submitted my pro-worker, anti-privatization guest column to the Chronicle earlier this month [April], the fact checker, a very polite editor, called me to verify basic facts, particularly numbers.
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