Amid all the piling-on in the wake of a few Living Wage Coalition members’s ridiculous “occupation” stunt, an odd idea has emerged: Because some members of the LWC are silly, their ideas and beliefs must be silly, too.
It’s a legitimate criticism of the occupation of the College of William and Mary President’s office to point out the harm done to the cause of workers’ rights when its proponents act like student activist cliches. But this doesn’t excuse the intellectual laziness of those who think that because some students treat advocacy like an extracurricular activity, they no longer need to care about the fact that campus workers are underpaid and mistreated.
There was a time where it was uncontroversial in this country to point out that if an employer is going to ask an employee to work a full-time schedule, that employer better pay that employee enough to live on. Despite their pretend-its-1968 shenanigans, the LWC [has] basically been about that premise. Without campus workers, the College doesn’t work. Campus workers make up one of the few adult populations in this town that supports and cares for the College. And despite all this, many of them have to work second and third jobs, many of them are working shifts that are under-staffed and under-resourced, many of them are struggling to support their families and children, and many of them don’t know if they will ever be able to retire.
These are shameful facts for the College. They don’t become any less shameful because exploitation is so common in our country’s economy. They don’t become any less shameful because some members of the LWC are less than articulate. They don’t become any less shameful because some members of the LWC make up for the fact they aren’t articulate via volume and rudeness. They don’t even become any less shameful in light of the fact that the College is undergoing a budget crunch. Advocates for campus workers have been raising this issue for years, long before today’s economic realities set in. Critiques of the LWC’s means shouldn’t bleed into critiques of the LWC’s ends.