Living Wage Protest Moves Forward

By: Michael Gorsegner
By: Michael Gorsegner

April 14, 2006

Several UVA students continue a sit-in at Madison Hall as part of a protest for what they consider a lack of a living wage for more than 11,000 University workers.

Right now, 17 students remain inside the building, as living wage protesters keep a 24-hour vigil on the grounds. For 3 days, students have not been allowed in or out of the building to bring either food or water to those inside. One parent said she is worried for her child
s welfare.

"There are just standing up for what they believe in. Which is what a University is supposed to be about," said parent Diane Villars.

Villar's daughter Jillian has been inside of Madison Hall since the protests began. She and several others tried to deliver food to the students inside but were stonewalled. She says Jillian is planning to spend her 21st birthday on Sunday right there.

"She has chosen to give that up, to stand up for a cause that she really believes in," she said.

Former and possible future politicians joined the cause today. Former City Councilor Meredith Richards and City Council hopefuls Dave Norris and Julian Taliaferro signed petitions supporting the cause. Norris says the problem is not just isolated to the University.

"These workers that are earning the poverty wages here, many of them are having to rely on social services and food stamps which are paid out of our tax dollars," he said.

Living Wagers want the University to boost the minimum hourly pay from $9.32 an hour to $10.72. The University just granted workers a $.49 raise only a month ago and they say their hands are tied. Still, protesters say they will continue to stand up for people who need their help.

"We would like to see the sit in end. We don't want to be here any more that the administration does but we also know that the poverty wages [are] not acceptable," said Abby Bellows.

One question that many at the protest are wondering is why people have not been allowed in to bring food or drink to those inside Madison Hall. A UVA spokesperson said there were two reasons for this. Firstly, officials were worried about fire code restrictions and having two many people in the building. Secondly, they wanted to make a proper working environment for the employees inside so that they could get some work done.

Protesters say they will continue this rally until, something is done about the wages.

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