The University of Virginia is reviewing a proposal to import hundreds of Asian workers for various campus services, pay them less than a dollar per hour, and possibly deny them egress from their campus housing outside of work hours.
This is according to a report of which I have obtained a copy and which has been verified by three independent sources. The report was apparently inspired by a recent conference held at the university that sounds fictional but was actually about fiction. As recounted, as well, in the latest issue of the New Yorker magazine, a secretive federal agency responsible for inventing “cyborg insects and killer robots” is advising the university on “story telling.”
For decades, UVA has struggled to more convincingly tell the story of its opposition to “so-called living wage campaigns,” the report explains. The central argument has always been that the university will pay what a job is worth. And what it’s worth has always been defined as “as little as someone will take to do the job.” The authors of the study note legal restrictions on paying women less than men, or blacks less than whites. But they discuss the federal minimum wage and bans on child labor as if these were societal constraints but not necessarily laws.
Fortune Magazine recently reported on the developing trend in the United States of paying employees nothing at all:
“With nearly 14 million unemployed workers in America, many have gotten so desperate that they’re willing to work for free. While some businesses are wary of the legal risks and supervision such an arrangement might require, companies that have used free workers say it can pay off when done right.”
By “done right” the UVA report explains, one need not mean “legally” but must mean “successfully.” However, the authors caution that “Mr. Jefferson’s university began with slave labor, which gives the practice of paying nothing at all, even when that is the market price, a bad name.” From there the proposal to import “inexpensive, but never free” labor is developed.
The full report is posted here with a few names blacked out, including the authors’.