The Board of Visitors began its spring session last Thursday. What they thought would be a smooth session turned into chaos when members of the Living Wage Coalition began chanting outside the meeting room. Video footage documents an exchange between members of the LWC and Rector Henry Wolf ’64, J.D. ’66 as he asks them to be quiet while the BOV meets. It appears from the video that members of the LWC were rude to Wolf, interrupting him multiple times. I am all for increasing wages, but the way the LWC is approaching this issue is hurting their cause more than helping it.
One of the problems with the LWC is that they demand an increase in staff wages but haven’t suggested a method for finding the money in the budget to supplement this increase. During a meeting between Wolf, College President Taylor Reveley and two LWC representatives, one of the LWC representatives admitted to not knowing exactly what money in the budget could be used to support LWC proposals. Making demands without really having a plan is often one of the pitfalls of social movements. Where exactly is the College supposed to get $4.5 million to increase workers’ wages? This should have been the first question asked of and answered by the LWC.
Another one of the problems with the LWC is its lack of student support. The LWC alienates students with the mentality, “If you are not with us, you are against us.” If the LWC really wants to gain support and become a powerful movement, there are several things it needs to do.
First, the LWC needs to realize that nobody at the College has received any sort of pay raise in the past three years. There is absolutely no money in the budget due to the economic crisis and decreasing state support of the College. The LWC also needs to have realistic goals. Increasing the wage of our custodial staff to 15 dollars per hour is a difficult first goal to achieve. While the average College worker makes $9.97 per hour, a lead custodial position for the James City County government pays around $22,000. The custodial staff at the College is actually making more than the state average. The LWC should aim to increase the salaries of workers in increments; any sort of pay raise is better than nothing. Finally, the LWC needs to stop berating our school’s administrators. Demanding things, being rude, and saying insulting things about our administration is not the way to accomplish anything.
The LWC had such good intentions when it first started, and I supported what were they saying, but the movement has turned into something that endorses rude behavior. Maybe if the coalition approached the problems it sees with a better strategy and their own ideas for solutions, something would be accomplished. The LWC needs to start thinking of different solutions and techniques before it completely loses support of the school. If this happens, our custodial staff’s wages will never increase.