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Virginia Students Hunger-Strike for Living Wage | The Nation

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Peter Rothberg

Peter Rothberg

Opposing war, racism, sexism, climate change, economic injustice and high-stakes testing.

Virginia Students Hunger-Strike for Living Wage

The University of Virginia is currently in the national spotlight in connection with lacrosse player George Huguely, convicted for the murder of Yardley Love.

What the media hasn’t noticed, however, is that UVA itself is currently on trial for a long history of economic violence, as UVA English professor Susan Fraiman pointed out in a mass e-mail to the press. As a last resort to end a fourteen-year campaign for a living wage, fifteen students are now on day six of a hunger strike as part of an aggressive public campaign that includes a daily rally and march each day at 12 pm, a sunset vigil each evening at 6 and teach-in workshops from 7 to 8:30 pm.

The facts are stark, if not unfamiliar: the starting wage for UVA workers is $10.65, whereas current figures from the EPI put a living wage in Charlottesville at $13; work is increasingly outsourced to independent companies where contract workers typically earn minimum wage, with no benefits; UVA workers at the bottom of the pay scale are disproportionately African-American; and top university administrators earn over $400,000 and sometimes as much as $700,000.

The UVA Living Wage Campaign has wide support from the community. The city of Charlottesville passed a Living Wage ordinance back in 2000. “We have people going homeless here in the City of Charlottesville…some of them working full time, because of insufficient wages,” said then-Mayor David Norris. In 2010 the body passed a resolution urging the university, the largest employer in town, to do likewise. Amping up the pressure, more than 325 faculty members have signed a petition calling for a living wage.

Check out livingwageatuva.org for images and updates about the hunger strike, testimonials from strikers, information about the campaign and its demands, and suggestions for ways you can support the campaign, including signing this petition imploring UVA President Teresa Sullivan to do the right thing.

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