April 13, 2006
The battle over living wage for workers at the University of Virginia continues. UVA President, John Casteen, addressed the students who have been sitting outside his office for the second day in a row. They're refusing to leave the building were President Casteen's office is, until the University agrees to pay it's workers $10.72 an hour.
Students spent the night sleeping on sofas and eating what food they have, but it seems the University is not making it easy for them. UVA is fighting back, issuing a statement saying they are not responsible, and they have cut off lines of communication for the students inside. All those students have now are their cellphones.
"They cut off all of our [wireless] Internet services so we can't be in touch through email with anybody," said Theresa Daniels, who is participating in the sit in.
With police guarding the door, no one is allowed to go in or out unless they have an appointment with some in the building.
Instead, students are posting their names and classes on a piece of paper they taped to the window. They're hoping that someone will let their professors know they won't be in class today, maybe even tomorrow or next week.
"We don't really feel like we can walk out of this building without making progress on what they need to get done," said Abby Bellows, the Living Wage Campaign Coordinator.
But President Casteen isn't going to give up either. Late last night he gave each student a response letter. It states "according to the Attorney General of the Commonwealth of Virginia, the Board of Visitors at the University does not have the authority to impose minimum wage standards on private contractors or vendors..."
It goes on to explain, their lowest hourly rate they are currently paying their workers "is slightly higher then the lowest hourly wage paid by the City of Charlottesville."
However, the Living Wage Group feels there is more that can be done for both workers under contract, and not under contract.
"Putting an end to outsourcing, or providing a direct compensation [for] contracted employees," explained Bellows.
Bellows said there are many solutions people in authority are capable of finding.
The living wage group says they will continue the rally and sit-in as long as it takes to make a change. As of Thursday afternoon, tents were being set up for students planning on staying the night.
University officials stand by their decision; they will not increase the minimum wage. The on-going battle does not look like it will end anytime soon, and who knows who will come out the winner.
There will be another rally in front of Madison Hall on Friday, April 14. Two City Coucil candidates will be guest speakers.
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