Water, Not Flowers

A recent piece on the AFL-CIO blog by Mike Hall which no longer appears to be available, described the poor labor conditions for workers under the Arizona State University Foundation. Per Hall, the immigrant workers–employed by Great Western Erectors on the Arizona State University campus projects–are saying they were denied breaks and water in the fiercely hot desert summer temperatures, as well as been forced to pay for their own safety equipment.

“The Arizona State University Foundation spent nearly $1 million for meals and other events at luxurious Phoenix-area hotels, and more than $600,000 in flowers, gifts and trophies in 2005–2006.” writes Hall, citing a report presented by a group of students and workers called Coalition for Justice at Great Western Erectors. “That same year, overhead expenses, including the meals and flowers, accounted for 56 percent of the foundation’s expenditures, while direct grants to Arizona State University (ASU) made up just 44 percent of spending.”

The ASU Webdevil reports the Foundation’s objections to the conference. Johnnie Ray, president and CEO of the foundation said that the expenses, like the fees paid to asset managers, meal and gift expenses, along with salaries of top foundation employees, are normal operating expenses and that these expenses go to to attract future potential donors and hire staff and that even these have been taken out of context and could lead to legal repercussions.

Judy Van Gorden, the foundation’s chief financial officer, went further, saying the the report misidentified the amount of foundation money allocated to ASU from 2005-06 as $32.5 million when the actual number was $47.7 million. She also noted that overhead expenses were miscalculated as 56 percent of total expenses, when they were actually 20 percent. A full report by the foundation on inaccuracies is available on the ASU website.

Sara Myklebust, ASU alumna and research analyst for the coalition in favor of the laborers said she didn’t feel any information had been misrepresented.

Meanwhile, a review of ASU Foundation tax returns by The Arizona Republic showed that foundation “spending on program services, which are the core activities that define an organization’s non-profit status, fell from about 80 percent of total spending for three straight years to 64 percent in 2005-06. The foundation enjoyed booming revenues of $124 million in 2005-06 yet its grants to ASU were up only slightly from the previous year, at $32.5 million.”

And it’s all well and good that all parties involved are working toward an accurate representation of the spending by the Arizona State University Foundation, but what happens to the workers?

Read the article by Daniel Newhauser at ASU Web Devil or the piece by Anne Ryman for The Arizona Republic.

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