Living Wage Rally Sparks A Sit In

By: Lindsay Puccio
By: Lindsay Puccio

April 12, 2006

University of Virginia workers and students held a rally to pressure President John Casteen to raise the school's minimum wage rate. Some students began a sit-in, saying they wouldn't leave until the University's minimum wage rate is increased.

At 6 p.m. on Wednesday, the living wage rally still continued. Students, faculty, and University workers all joined together to protest for the rate increase. All day, over a dozen students were camped out inside Madison Hall, sitting just inches from President Casteen's office.

Professor of Anthropology Wendy Marshall was arrested and charged with a fire code violation. Living wage campaign officials say she was trying to enter Madison Hall, but activists on both sides say the battle still continues.

The group running the living wage campaign said based on research, workers should be making at least $10.72 an hour to start. That would be about a $2 an hour raise for most workers. The University recently agreed to raise it, but only by 49 cents.

"It has been raised slightly, that's the good news, the bad news is it's still not sufficient," said Julian Bond, a professor of American University.

Guest speaker, Professor Julian Bond, and others said that's still not enough for a University worker with a family to get by.

"The people who clean our floors should be able to live in our community," said Abby Bellows, the Living Wage Campaign Coordinator.

Some students felt they had to go above and beyond the rally. Seventeen students held a sit in in front of President John Casteen's door for hours saying they weren't going to move until the University makes a change.

"We have exhausted our other options and this is the best way to move forward with getting what the workers in this community need," said Bellows.

Seth Croft said he's willing to do whatever it takes to get the University to listen.

"We are willing to stand up for the rights of workers who aren't able to do so for themselves," said Croft who participated in the sit in.

But not all students feel this living wage is right for the University workers. Josh Hess and his friends held their own rally. They said giving all employees the same amount of money helps them today, but it could hurt them in the future.

"You'll have an instance in which the University's ability to hire more employees is diminished. The University's ability to increase the current employees benefits, health insurance and that sort of thing is also diminished," said Hess.

The doors in Madison Hall have been closed since 5:30 p.m. and University officials are saying that they want all students out--they don't want to have to arrest anybody.

Despite the efforts of the protesters, UVa representative Carol Wood said the University will not be increasing the minimum wage again. The living wage group says they will continue to rally for the wage increase until the University changes it's policy.

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