Students at the University of Virginia yesterday began the 12th day of their hunger strike in support of higher wages for university workers. They vow to continue until the administration agrees to enact a policy officially stating that all university workers must be paid, at a minimum, the basic cost of living in Charlottesville, where the university is located.
The majority of the university workers are African American.
According to the Living Wage Campaign, which is pushing the better pay, $13.00 should be the basic minimum salary.
The strike is not limited to a handful of student activists. In fact, Joseph Williams, a UVA footballer is also out in strike in solidarity with the workers, many of whom make less than $8.00 per hour. Williams said, “Our university seeks to distinguish itself as a caring community and prides itself on traditions of honor and student self-governance. However, in our ‘caring community,’ hundreds of contract employees may make as little as $7.25/hour while six out of the top ten highest paid state employees in Virginia hold administrative positions at the university.”
The hunger strike began Feb. 18. and is the culmination of years of organizing for a living wage for the university’s workers, including food service and janitorial staff. Students and other supporters have employed a variety of techniques, including petitions, marches, demonstrations, and other tactics for more than half a decade.
In 2006, the student council hosted a referendum on whether workers should be paid a living wage, defined then as $10.72 per hour. The student body gave overwhelming support, with 77.5 percent voting in favor. This led to a small increase in wages, to the current $9.37 per hour.
Photo: Creative Commons 3.0