Hunger Strike At UVA Ends
A hunger strike at the University of Virginia for a living wage for employees has ended, but participants say significant progress was made.
For the past 14 years, UVA students, faculty, and staff have been campaigning for the university to pay their employees enough to meet the basic costs of living in Charlottesville. On Feb. 18, several inititated a hunger strike for a living wage. A living wage reflects the basic needs of an average family: a family of four with two full-time working adults and two dependent children. The calculations account for a family’s basic expenses, including housing, food, transportation, health care, childcare, taxes, and other necessities, and vary by location. The group garnered more than 1000 petition signatures in just two days.
Organizers asked that the living wage be set to $13.00/hr and indexed to inflation. This wage level would be applied to all employees, including contracted employees. Staff members report that “hundred of people here are just scraping by.” The current university president, Theresa Sullivan, asserts in her most recent publication that “being paid a living wage for one’s work is a necessary condition for self-actualization.” It is unknown if the Board of Visitors will agree with the protestors and Sullivan’s research.
Among the students who engaged in striking were football player Joseph Williams of the Virginia Cavaliers; Jonathan Bryan, president of the student NAACP chapter; Hallie Clark, a third-year student who will live on the Lawn next year; and Alex Shannon, a third-year student majoring in Economics.
“The Living Wage Campaign declares our action an enormous victory,” said a statement posted on the Campaign’s website. ” Here’s a short list of what we’ve accomplished: first, the administration was forced to send two emails to some 40,000 people responding explicitly on our campaign. We’ve met with them twice on short notice in the last week. We have brought an unprecedented level of attention on grounds, in the state of Virginia, and indeed in the nation, to the issue of fair wages at UVA.”
Supporters believe the campaign could spread to other universities like the University of Richmond or Virginia Commonwealth University. U of R’s minimal wage is $9.54/hr and VCU’s is $8.25/hr. A living wage for a single adult living in Richmond is estimated to be at least $9.25 for a single employee.
“We have utter confidence that this action has laid the groundwork for an indexed living wage, that includes contract employees, in the very near future,” said the campaign’s statement. “We will not rest, indeed, we will escalate, until this happens.”
More information about the campaign can be found here.
Jon Henry comes from the small town of Washington, Virginia. Xe finished xes degree at the University of Richmond and was named GayRVA.com's Out.Spoken. Richmonder of the Year for 2011. When not in class, xe is either in the studio or rabble rousing with other queer activists. Follow xem on Twitter.
The We Are All UVA campaign was started to highlight the diversity found at the Charlottesville based college. And little did they know the impact that would follow when two members of the swim team came out as gay along side three of their teammates in one post. (see the photo above) While only one [...]April 8, 2014
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