Home

Home Page

Accounts

Syndication

Media Centers

Home
Richmond IndyMedia Live! Every Tuesday, 12:30 - 1PM on 97.3 WRIR LP-FM, and streaming online from wrir.org!

LOCAL News :: Civil & Human Rights : Labor & Class

UVA Living Wage Sit-in Under Way

Members of the Living Wage Campaign at the University of Virginia have begun a sit-in in Madison Hall, where University President John T. Casteen III's office is located. Those students plan to sit in until the University accepts its moral responsibility and commits to paying a real living wage. President Casteen has the authority to ensure that all University employees, direct and contracted, are paid a living wage.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Press contact: Abby Bellows - abbysage (at) gmail.com, 703-408-8605

WHY WE ARE SITTING IN

By the time you read this, members of the Living Wage Campaign at the
University of Virginia will have begun a sit-in in Madison Hall, where
University President John T. Casteen III's office is located. Those students
plan to sit in until the University accepts its moral responsibility and
commits to paying a real living wage.

President Casteen has the authority to ensure that all University employees,
direct and contracted, are paid a living wage. Despite our extensive
research and our repeated attempts at honest, substantive dialogue, the
administration has failed to provide appropriate compensation for the entire
workforce or even express a commitment to doing so.

Hundreds of University workers, overwhelmingly women and people of color,
are currently paid less than a living wage. Many housekeepers, dining hall
workers, and other employees work a second full-time job after putting in a
full day's work at UVa. It is morally reprehensible to pay poverty wages to
the very employees who keep our University safe, beautiful, and functioning,
when we have the resources to compensate them with dignity. As thousands of
students, workers, faculty members, unions, alumni/ae, and community members
have agreed, no one should face these circumstances, and we cannot permit
them in our community.

The Living Wage Campaign has worked since 1998 to ensure that all University
employees can afford to live and raise their families in the Charlottesville
community. After years of meetings and coalition-building, we believe that
escalation is justified in order to force the administration to confront its
responsibility for the poverty in our community.

Dr. Martin Luther King wrote that "in any nonviolent campaign there are four
basic steps: collection of the facts to determine whether injustices exist;
negotiation; self-purification; and direct action." We believe that those
steps have been taken at UVa by the Living Wage Campaign, our predecessors,
and our allies.

Collection of Facts

Our recent report, "Keeping Our Promises," presented to President Casteen
and the University community, details the facts surrounding the issue of a
living wage. In it we noted Charlottesville's 25% poverty rate and addressed
the leadership role the University must take, as the region's largest
employer, in combating that problem. The University maintains that all
University employees are given opportunities to advance beyond entry-level
positions, but we contend that no one should be expected to wait for
promotion so that they can live in the community in which they work. We
maintain that no one working full time should be forced to live in poverty.
So long as any University employee earns a poverty wage we affirm that
injustice exists.

Negotiation

We've met with administrators and members of the Board of Visitors. The
Board has told us that they defer to the administration, and the
administration has said to talk to the Board. Both have blinded themselves
to solutions to the problem, preferring to hide behind legal excuses. Both
have avoided taking responsibility for the poverty of some of the
University's most vulnerable employees. Although President Casteen has
expressed his commitment to low-wage workers in the abstract, he has not
taken concrete steps toward ensuring that no University employee earns
poverty wages in the 2919 days since he was first publicly asked to do so.
The most recent resolution in favor of a living wage has garnered signatures
from over 1200 students, faculty, community members, clergy, University
employees, alumni, and parents. Notable signatories include Julian Bond,
Delegate David Toscano, and Charlottesville's mayor, David Brown.

Self-Purification

Throughout this Campaign, we have been very careful to guard the
authenticity of our intentions and the moral legitimacy of our methods. We
have been trained in nonviolent direct action, and have undertaken it in the
full knowledge of its potential consequences. We have sought a solution to
the problem of poverty wages in multiple and varied ways, but we have been
obstructed by the administration at every turn. We believe we have
reasonably met the condition of "self-purification."

Direct Action

We are sitting in because we have exhausted every avenue of dialogue with
the administration that could lead to a living wage. We are sitting in
because UVa's wage policies threaten the economic survival and violate the
dignity of University workers. And finally, we are sitting in because
poverty in our community is vicious and cannot wait any longer for remedy.

Our basic demand remains the same as always: All University employees,
whether directly employed or hired through outside firms, must be paid a
living wage of at least $10.72 per hour before benefits, adjusted at least
annually to inflation and the cost of living in Charlottesville. Complete
implementation also requires the following:


*Prioritization of currently employed workers. In implementing the living
wage policy and in related organizational changes, no jobs, wages, or
benefits will be eliminated or decreased as a result. Ultimately, the
University has a responsibility to all members of its Community of Trust,
and if contractors prefer to disengage from the University rather than
respect our commitment to social justice, the University has an obligation
to prioritize the employment of any workers who work under those
contractors, and ensure that their job status at the University will not be
eliminated as a result.

*Creation of an oversight committee. A committee should be formed to ensure
fair and complete implementation of the agreed upon policy. This committee
must include workers, students, faculty and administrators, and must work
within the timeline of implementing this living wage policy by the first day
of the 2006 Fall Semester.

Because our sit-in has been seriously considered and undertaken with the
best interest of the University deeply at heart, we also demand that no one
suffer disciplinary consequences or civil liability as a result of
participation in these acts of peaceful civil disobedience. These immunity
guidelines have routinely been demanded and met in the dozens of student
sit-ins that have taken place nationally during the last decade.

The administration takes responsibility for ensuring that the University is
a leader in terms of the students it produces, the faculty it attracts, and
the research it does, but fails in the moral vision that it offers to the
world. We will take that responsibility for this University that we love,
and will continue to sit-in until our conditions are met.

# # #

The Living Wage Campaign at the University of Virginia
 
 


This site made manifest by dadaIMC software

[Valid RSS]