More than 100 students marched out of their classes to the Crim Dell Meadow as part of the national “We Are One” walk out at 12:15 p.m. Monday to show their support for a variety of different issues, including living wages and affordable education, both at the College of William and Mary and on the national scale.
On campus, the event was spearheaded by the Living Wage Coalition, which coordinated the walk out in conjunction with the larger national initiative. National chapters of the NAACP, Amnesty International, Young Democrats, Voices of Planned Parenthood and United Students Against Sweatshops, as well as National labor unions like the AFL-CIO, endorsed the national walk out in an effort to promote affordable education, health care, workers’ rights and living wages.
The event was billed as one of the largest national walk outs in history, as students, workers and professors from across the nation rallied for workers’ rights.
“I’m here to fight for the workers’ rights on campus and nationally,” Shannon Davis ’13 said. “The administration needs to think about living wages and put them into something of more importance than the stuff they’re spending money on now.”
The event was held on April 4, the day Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee in 1968. King was in Memphis to support African American sanitation workers who were on strike protesting unequal wages and working conditions.
“The [LWC] really fits in with the national scope in this time of crisis,” LWC member Maggie Russolello ’11 said.
The event was related to the labor union law issues occurring in Wisconsin, Indiana and other states where workers’ rights for collective bargaining are jeopardized.
The LWC sent an email to College President Taylor Reveley requesting he bring up the issue of living wages at the April 13 Board of Visitors meeting. They hope the deadline will press Reveley to show he is taking concrete steps towards incorporating living wages into the budget.
“We’re hoping that the administration responds and sees that this is a community issue. Not just an issue of importance on campus, but nationally also,” Arielle Pak ’13 said.
The LWC encouraged students to leave class for the midday rally. College professors, along with the custodial workers, labor union members and student representatives, spoke at the event. Some professors weren’t overly supportive of the idea, but others brought their entire classes to the event.
“It is clear to me that the spirit of activism is still very much alive here at William and Mary,” theater professor Artisia Green said to the crowd. “This is a story for the history books. Economic injustice is tied to every other social problem and challenge.”
Student representatives took turns at the microphone encouraging their peers to advocate for the issues and to show their own support for the cause. Students demonstrated their support through speeches, banners and poetic verse.
“Now is the time to come together and show that justice too long delayed is justice denied,” NAACP member Kameron Adams said.
After the speeches ended, participants marched around across campus holding signs and shouting the LWC chant, “What do we want? Living wages! When do we want them? Now!”
College maintenance staff member Kirk Fatrell and his wife Roxanne Fatrell have worked as part of the custodial staff at the College for over a decade. They each had to file a leave of absence in order to miss an hour of work in order to be at the rally. They stayed after the event to talk with students about their experiences.
“I believe in anything worth fighting for. You have to fight for what you want and let them know what’s important,” Kirk Fatrell said.
Roxanne Fatrell explained that many of her co-workers work another job after they finish their seven-hour shifts at the College.
“I hope the administration will listen and show appreciation for all the support the students have been giving us,” Roxanne Fatrell said.