Last semester, students on campus witnessed a battle between the Living Wage Coalition and the administration. Through talks with College of William and Mary President Taylor Reveley, posters, workers’ speeches, rallies and Facebook, the Coalition tried to get members of the student body, and of the community at large, involved in the struggle for fair wages for workers at the College.
More recently, the campaign has been organizing activities that demonstrate the support they have gained, including rallies, community forums and a walk out which took place yesterday.
A mural was signed and painted by students and faculty who support the campaign. At first the mural was displayed at the Sadler Center, but the Coalition was told they had to move it because the metal stakes they used to support the mural were deemed dangerous. They moved down the hill from the Sadler Center to the small amphitheater across from the Crim Dell to display the murals and to hand out information about the walk out. The idea behind the walk out was not to be disrespectful to the administration or faculty members, but to demonstrate that the student body and faculty members support the need for living wages for all workers at the College. Information and handouts about the walk out were distributed while students stood by the mural. Students have been encouraged to explain to their professors what they are doing, and to emphasize that it is not meant to be disrespectful.
So why, after all that the Living Wage Coalition has done to demonstrate the support they have from faculty, workers, students and the community in general, has the administration not addressed this issue? They have refused even to discuss the issue with the Board of Visitors, and although support for the campaign has been demonstrated repeatedly, they refuse to take up the issue with the student body.
Based on the cost of living in Williamsburg, workers at the College barely make enough money to feed themselves, and they definitely do not make enough to feed their families. As word of the campaign spreads, active members in the coalition include not only undergraduate students, but also graduate students and law students, who have brought up an interesting point: How can a college that seeks to educate its students about fair wages and working conditions by offering a class about workers’ rights not extend those benefits to its own workers?
The fact that workers at the College have to work more than one job in order to support their families is a travesty. The administration is forcing its workers to live in poverty, and refusing to confront the issues that the Living Wages Coalition is trying to bring before them. It seems that the administration thinks that this issue will just go away if it is ignored, but the reality of the matter is that members of the Coalition, the student body, the faculty and the community will only get angrier as the issue continues to be neglected. This anger does not help anyone, especially if the goal of gaining living wages for College workers is to be reached; it only causes more tension.
Members of the Living Wage Coalition, the student body and the community should work together with the administration and the Board of Visitors in order to accomplish this goal and to help eliminate the poverty in which workers at the College are forced to live. Just ignoring the issues and getting angry does nothing to help workers at the College, which, we must remember, is the real goal of this struggle.