Cooking is my third career; beforehand, I spent years learning about every aspect of hotels and voice telecommunications (when there was still such a thing). Since I went to culinary school nearly 20 years ago, I have spent the majority of my working life on college campuses: Gonzaga, Portland State, Eastern Washington, and now Oregon.
I learned way back in the ‘80s that in any organization, the people most directly responsible for the delivery of goods and services get the lowest pay and the least respect. This year, those “essential” people are being asked to literally put their lives on the line to ensure that food gets served, mail and packages get delivered, bathrooms get cleaned, and work orders stay in motion. For this we pay many of them less than $15 an hour, and their voices are little heard in the places where policy is made.
What, then, is my purpose in such renowned company as the University Senate? Easy. To be the voice of the toilet scrubbers and dishwashers, speaking their truth to power. If we have learned anything so far from the pandemic, it is just how essential those workers really are. When the grocer’s shelves are bare, the call does not go out for political scientists, attorneys, engineers, or MBAs, but for the people with calloused hands whose jobs cannot be performed remotely — and who can’t afford to stay home — who will show up and unswervingly get things done.
The world is changing radically before our eyes. Let’s not waste this opportunity.