April 18, 2006
We've heard a lot from the Living Wage protesters on grounds but not too much from the workers who are directly affected. The Newsplex talked to one worker to get her take on the issue.
A lot of the University workers are too afraid to speak up, which is why the media has not heard a lot from them. One woman says she hopes her story can help shed some light on what goes on behind the scenes.
As a Recycling Technician for UVA, Mo Nichols makes $9.45 an hour. That is more than $1 less than the $10.72 living wagers are pushing for. For her and her husband that’s simply not enough.
"We are very fortunate to have full time jobs, and we still can't save money, we don't live extravagantly, we have old cars," said Nichols.
For the past week, UVA students have battled with University officials to get employees like Nichols more money. Meanwhile, those same employees, worried over ruffling feathers, have observed the protests quietly from the sidelines.
"The cycle of poverty does not empower people to speak out," said Nichols.
Because of education or family situations some of the workers can't find other jobs.
"The ones who work full time here, their children are eligible for subsidized meals at school, they're eligible for subsidized housing. That is just atrocious," explained Nichols.
Earlier this year, the University raised its minimum employee wage to nearly $9.50 an hour. That is well over the federal minimum wage of $5.15, but some employees and students argue that's too low to meet Charlottesville's high cost of living.
"There are other benefits this University offers which is wonderful...they just have simply not kept up with the times," said Nichols.
For that reason students say they'll rally for as long as it takes to get workers like Nichols what they call a living wage.
"They're awesome, yes, I'm very grateful," said Nichols.
UVA President John Casteen has repeatedly pointed out that the University's minimum salary is still higher than what the City of Charlottesville pays. Still, students plan to continue their living wage rallies outside of the Rotunda starting at 1 p.m. each day.