Contract labor checklist to guide vendor selection

By Kimber Williams | Emory Report | Feb. 28, 2014

Under a new Contract Labor Selection and Oversight Checklist, the hiring and evaluation of most contract vendors doing business at Emory will now be guided by a more formalized process rooted in key ethical principles and values and designed to promote greater transparency.

The contract labor checklist, which primarily applies to external vendors who employ non-Emory labor on campus, is among a series of actions taken in response to Emory's 2013 Committee on Class and Labor Report.

In a progress report before the University Senate, Eric Bymaster, who chairs the Class and Labor Implementation Committee, presented highlights from actions already initiated by the committee, which address 22 of the 62 recommendations issued in last year's class and labor report.

Key among the actions was creation of a Contract Labor Selection and Oversight Checklist — a first for Emory — which not only formalizes criteria to be used when evaluating a potential vendor, but outlines issues to consider when renewing contracts. It also establishes a Contract Advisory Group to lend oversight to the process.

"This definitely is a first step toward being very clear about our expectations," said Bymaster, who is assistant vice president of finance and operations for Campus Life.

In the past, "there were some general guidelines, basic tenets, that were being used informally, but we had not put them into one place for it to be clearly understood, so that contractors know what we stand for and what we expect when they're working on campus," he said.

The Committee on Class and Labor was appointed in response to campus dialogue and concern about the treatment of contract labor in Spring 2010. The first phase of the commission's work focused on the role of class and status in Emory's non-academic workforce; subsequent phases will examine faculty and students.

The Class and Labor Implementation Committee — comprised of faculty, staff and students — began meeting last March to advise on implementing those recommendations. The resulting contract labor selection checklist and new approval process took effect Jan. 1, 2014.

Emory's ethical principles

For the first time, the contract labor checklist now articulates essential principles and values — intended to affirm the University's own ethical principles —to be considered in choosing external vendors.

 They include:

  • Integrity, fairness and respect for the individual
  • Compliance with U.S. and state laws
  • Safety and healthy working conditions
  • Adherence to ethical business practices
  • Good stewardship of the University's financial resources
  • Consistency with Emory's ethical principles

The checklist not only poses questions to ask when deciding to outsource services, but also formally calls for consideration of "institutional values and practices" when selecting vendors that employ non-Emory staff on campus, such as:

  • Vendor compliance with Emory's minimum rate of pay
  • Demonstrated commitment to diversity and sustainability
  • Adequate grievance procedures
  • Support for work/life balance and career development
  • Attention to the impact of seasonal and part-time employment practices

Transparent contract bids

 The contract labor checklist also establishes a new Contract Advisory Group to review selection and renewals and offer recommendations on contracts that involve non-Emory labor on campus.

"Establishing on oversight committee responsible for the process was a recommendation of the Class and Labor Committee," Bymaster said, who notes that the advisory group has already been utilized for a contract review this semester.

Under the plan, vendor finalists will make contract renewal bids through public forums or town halls open to the campus community. "The first use of this was with the Ricoh Managed Document Services agreement," he added. "We put them through this process and were able to get feedback directly from the (campus) community, which was all very positive and made the decision easier. It was a great test case."

The contract labor checklist applies to external vendors that employ 50 or more non-Emory staff, provide critical services with a "significant impact" on Emory's day-to-day operations, or have an exclusive agreement to provide those services.

Currently, the University has such contracts with five vendors, including Barnes & Noble (bookstore); First Transit (bus service); Ricoh (document and mail services); Sodexo (food services); and Standard Parking (cashiers and ambassadors). 

Tackling workplace issues

Other actions prompted by Class and Labor Report recommendations have addressed wide-ranging workplace issues, which include:

  • Communication about workplace benefits, compensation and flexibility
  • Expanded community education programs and professional development
  • Evaluating differences in policy implementation across schools and units

Committee on Class and Labor Co-chair Nadine Kaslow, has praised the implementation committee's rapid work. "We did not want this report to sit on a shelf, so the implementation efforts are really spectacular," says Kaslow, School of Medicine professor and chief psychologist at Grady Memorial Hospital.

Bymaster credits the dedication of the implementation committee, adding that Emory is among only a few universities across the nation at the forefront of articulating a contract approval process that formally identifies ethics, values and workplace expectations.

The next phase of the Class and Labor committee's work, now underway, focuses upon Emory faculty, examining such issues such as recruitment, promotion and retention; the role of non-tenure track faculty; compensation and benefits compared to peer institutions; and the of role class on the job. A final Phase II report is expected later this year.