Chamber of Commerce Applauds and Supports University of Virginia President and Administration on “Wage-Fixing” “Demands”

The Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce today released a letter from its President, Timothy Hulbert to Teresa Sullivan, President of the University of Virginia, applauding and in support of the University�s �sound approach� to, and �professional management of the complex issues involving employee wages and compensation.� The letter reads:  Dear President Sullivan: On behalf of our Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce I am writing to applaud your good will, good manner, sound reason, full understanding and professional management of the complex issues involving employee wages and compensation. As you know well, our Chamber is dedicated to representing private enterprise, promoting business and enhancing the quality of life in our Greater Charlottesville communities.  Founded in 1913, today our Chamber member enterprises employ more than 45,000 men and women in our Greater Charlottesville communities, representing an estimated total payroll of more than $1.3 billion a year.  The University of Virginia is the leading Chamber member employment and economic enterprise.  The University�s high standards exemplify leadership of the first order.  In reading and absorbing the on-going recent media accounts of those University students and faculty �demands� regarding the University�s employment wage structure, I am struck by the lack of understanding of the complexities of employment policy the demonstrators demonstrate.  The University of Virginia clearly is the employment leader within our Greater Charlottesville communities and a leader within the entire Commonwealth.  Over the course of my eleven-year tenure here, the countless individuals who have come to our Chamber seeking career advice and advancement � including two people just today � have always included in their search what opportunities might exist for them at the University.  In addition, the thousands of people who are attracted to our community from other regions of the Commonwealth and nation who come to our Chamber ALL inquire about the opportunity of a career at Mr. Jefferson�s university.    The University�s various compensation packages � at all levels of skill and experience � are excellent.  Allegations that the University lacks concern for employees at various entry levels are simply uniformed.  Entry level compensation packages that range from $17-$20 an hour lead this region�s employment market.  As you and other employers know, individuals employed by other enterprises very aggressively seek these University positions � and the excellent career ladder that the University offers.  When compensation is too low, people do not seek that employment.  That is never the case with the University.  A job at UVa is a good job that offers advancement.   I also wish the demonstrating group had a fuller and better understanding and appreciation as to the value of employment benefit packages.  Our nation just had an extended two-year debate about the value of health care coverage.  Health care, retirement, job-training, tuition assistance, leave and other compensation elements are valuable sought-after employee assets.  All employers try to offer attractive benefit packages to build and maintain the very best workforce they want and need.  The University�s benefits are excellent; they lead the market.    Our Chamber member enterprises have struggled through the �Great Recession� and slow economic rebound that has followed.  Over this time many enterprises have had to lay off valuable employees to reflect the realities of the economic slump; but not the University however.  Through very careful management, the University has protected its workforce.  We are all encouraged as the national and regional economic rebound moves forward. Our Chamber fully shares the aspiration of you and the demonstrating group to help our neighbors at the lower ends of the economic ladder.  Enacting a so-called �living wage� regulation on the University and its private contractors however is not the right mechanism.  While the overwhelming consensus of our Chamber leadership disagrees with the groups� regulatory wage-fixing prescription to help our neighbors to a better life, we absolutely agree with the goal.  Our Chamber is skeptical about achieving any real positive economic effects from governmental wage-fixing regulations.  Generally our Chamber understands that market forces have and do, best drive real prices and costs � including employee compensation � in a free enterprise economy.  The record of governmental wage and price fixing regulations � energy, food, wages, etc. � is mixed at its very best.  The unintended consequences of even the most well-intentioned prescription can be injurious to the university, its contractors and our greater community.  The sound management of the University, with its strong commitment to enhance the lives of its entire workforce and our community is a far better path. We also understand that wage-fixing mechanisms � regardless of good intent � are well beyond the authority of Virginia�s public universities.  We further understand that the authority to impose any such a measure within a governmental jurisdiction in Virginia is unavailable unless specifically granted by the Commonwealth by specific statute.  I believe that the wage-fixing prescription suggested by the demonstrating group would seem to be in direct conflict with the Commonwealth�s interpretation of the �Dillon Rule� regarding state and local governance.  I understand that the Virginia Attorney General also has firmly concluded that Virginia�s public universities would be without legal authority to adopt such wage-fixing regulations. Again President Sullivan, our Chamber applauds your sound approach and management to protecting and enhancing the University�s workforce.  The University�s human resource policies are sound and without peer within our region.  Again, a job � a career � at the University of Virginia is among the most attractive opportunities offered within our Commonwealth of Virginia; indeed within the nation.  You have our Chamber�s support and best wishes. Thank you.

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The Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce is dedicated to representing private enterprise, promoting business, and enhancing the quality of life in our Greater Charlottesville communities.