Letter to the Charlottesville Community
To all the Living Wage supporters in the Charlottesville community:
It has been eight months since the Living Wage Campaign called an end to its thirteen-day hunger strike. That action drew attention to UVA’s responsibility to its lowest paid employees and demonstrated that all work is dignified work. UVA’s responsibility to its lowest paid employees became a major issue on campus. We also spread the message that all work is dignified work. The University administration was compelled to increase UVa’s base hourly wage from $10.65 to $11.30 white the City of Charlottesville raised its base hourly wage to $13, the same number we had been petitioning for during our strike.
The support we received from the community was resolute and inspiring. Many of you have been allies of the campaign for longer than any of the current students. You were a constant presence at our rallies and were vocal about our cause. Some of you spoke on the behalf of community organizations that deal first-hand with the consequences of UVa’s low wages. When many of the strikers felt too weak to go on your energy helped sustain them. We would not have accomplished nearly as much without your help.
While our past actions have had positive consequences we still have work to do. The University continues to refuse to pay a Living Wage. Even the base wage that the University has announced is eroding – the University has begun contracting more services to companies that are not required to pay $11.30. Someone can work a full time job on our University’s campus and still be paid the federal minimum wage of $7.25. These are members of both the University and Charlottesville communities, and they deserve better.
This coming year we’re throwing our efforts towards the cause “Equal Pay for Equal Work”. We want the University to require its major contractors to pay at least what UVA says it pays its lowest paid employees: $11.30. In the future we want these contractors to pay whatever base pay and benefits UVA advertises for itself. We believe we can win this. Thanks to the local chapter of the National Lawyer’s Guild we have a firm case that it is completely legal for UVA to enact wage requirements for contractors. We even have promises on paper from members of the administration to start making contracting data more transparent.
The administration, and in particular President Sullivan, has had its own struggles over these eight months. Much of the dialogue on grounds has shifted to issues of the corporatization of higher education and the intransigence of the Board of Visitors. The Living Wage Campaign believes that the most pressing and outrageous injustice on our campus remains the University’s treatment of its lowest paid workers. We will make this loud and clear this school year. We hope that we will have your support when we need it again.