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The petition requests a guaranteed 'living wage' of at least $8 per hour. Yale University's Student Labor Action Coalition presented Yale President Richard Levin with a petition signed by more than 1,500 undergraduates last week in an attempt to resolve the school's ongoing labor dispute. The petition -- which has circulated on campus since September -- asks Levin to guarantee that subcontracted employees receive a "living" wage of at least $8 per hour. The proposed minimum wage is at the poverty line for a single worker supporting a family of four. Besides the wage demand, Yale has encountered a series of obstacles in its attempt to reach contract agreements with Locals 34 and 35 of the Federation of the University Employees. The two sides have been at a standstill since negotiations broke off in September. The wage issue is part of a larger debate over the future of Yale's dining services. Union negotiators have been unwilling to accept the school's proposals to subcontract the services. "We're letting President Levin and the other corporation members know that students know what their proposals will do to the community," 1996 Yale graduate and Coalition member Jon Zerolnick said. He added that as the largest employer in New Haven, Conn., Yale could "erode the base of good jobs" in the area by subcontracting jobs at the university. The petition also calls for the university to follow the example of Baltimore Mayor and Yale Corporation member Kurt Schmoke, who guaranteed all subcontracted employees working for his city a living wage. Zerolnick added that Levin has been unresponsive to student concerns about the labor issue and only agreed to meet with Coalition representatives after they called a press conference. But Yale officials say they have acquiesced to many of the unions' demands, noting that most university employees already make more than $8 per hour. "Yale certainly pays competitive and good wages to its employees," Yale spokesperson Tom Conroy said. "Obviously, many of the employees make more than the minimum." Conroy added that the university's current minimum wage for full-time employees ranges from $8 to $11 per hour. He said the minimum wage for subcontracted and temporary workers is $6.40 per hour. But he noted that Yale's average wage for a subcontracted or temporary worker is $11 per hour. "I think the students should be recognizing Yale as a model employer rather than finding fault with its negotiating position," Conroy said. "The purpose of our proposals is to provide better services to the students and better support for the university's educational missions.

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