College of William and Mary students and housekeepers gathered at the Crim Dell Meadow at noon Friday to begin their March to the President’s House, a protest of the wages paid to the housekeepers at the College.
After a meeting this week between representatives of the custodial staff, Vice President for Student Affairs Ginger Ambler ’88 Ph.D. ’06 and Vice President for Administration Anna Martin, some temporary workers were hired to alleviate the workload caused by unfilled vacancies on the janitorial staff. However, the replacement workers are currently employed only through the end of next week.
Leaders of the Tidewater Labor Support Committee claimed $2,262 per month as a living wage for Williamsburg, and they said the average salary of the housekeepers is $1,774 per month. Because of the higher cost of living in Williamsburg, they said most of the housekeepers live in the surrounding area, such as Newport News, where cost of living is lower.
Some participants were more optimistic about the results of the march.
While commending the students for organizing, history professor Cindy Hahamovitch, who has several publications concerning labor in the U.S., talked about the difficulty of the last attempt to raise wages and reduce the parking fees for staff 10 years ago. After that attempt, the school raised the starting wages for new employees, but not for workers already employed by the College.
Representatives from other student groups, such as I-Faith and the Student Environmental Action Coalition, also joined in the protest, forming what they called a “Livable Wage Coalition.”
Before the group departed on their march, Caitlin Goldblatt ’11 informed the gathering that Reveley was currently meeting with the College’s Board of Visitors in Blow Hall. The group then decided to divert from their planned march to his house, instead going to Blow Hall.
While they planned on interrupting the meeting, the demonstrators were told the meeting would end soon and that they could wait in the lobby, or outside.
The demonstrators waited in the lobby, but after realizing that members of the BOV were leaving from a lower exit via the Registrar’s office, they moved outside. When members of the BOV passed through the crowd, the crowd mostly ignored them in favor of continuing their chants.
When Reveley exited the building, he was met with cheers and, after he received the letter along with an orally delivered statement of complaints by a custodial staff worker, he spoke to those gathered.
“There’s a reality to this situation, but there is a need for progress,” he said. “I think it’s wonderful you came here waiting for me. We need to start a conversation and bring all the facts to the table. Because of the demonstrations by [the TLSC], this issue is getting more attention.”
Reveley then left for lunch with the BOV.
Afterward, the demonstrators dispersed, but members of the TLSC stayed behind and talked about the success of the demonstration, as well as strategy for the future.
Reaction to Reveley’s address was mixed.
“It is good that Reveley talked to us, but he refuses to recognize our facts,” Goldblatt said.
Goldblatt explained that the money needed to pay for the $448 dollar difference in pay could come from reallocation of funds. She noted that the ability to fund recent green initiatives came from an increase in tuition.
“That’s why students don’t want to sign on; they think that, if they do, there will be a tuition hike,” she said.
The next demonstration by the TLSC is a ‘Workers Speak’ event Oct. 14.
Update: Tuesday 4:01 p.m.: A previous quotation has been removed from this article.