[Marxism] Hunger strike on behalf of campus workers
lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Mar 22 07:40:15 MST 2005
Going Hungry at Georgetown
A showdown appears to be looming in a weeklong standoff at Georgetown
University over wages for janitors and other contracted workers.
About 25 members of a student group known as the Georgetown Living Wage
Coalition raised the stakes a week ago in the lengthy dispute with
university administrators by beginning a hunger strike. The students acted
after a university committee let pass a March 14 deadline the coalition had
imposed for Georgetown to commit to paying a living wage to campus workers.
The coalition had proposed that Georgetown approve a plan to raise the wage
it pays janitors and other contract workers to $14.93 an hour (from the
current $11.33) by July. But on March 14, Spiros Dimolitsas, a senior vice
president at the university, proposed instead that Georgetown raise the
wage to $13 an hour by this July and increase it each year through 2008, to
an eventual total of $14 an hour. Students rejected the universitys
proposal; based on the cost of living in Washington, the students wrote in
a response to Dimolitsass proposal, $14 an hour is not a living wage now
and it will not be a living wage in 2008.
That evening, 25 members of the group vowed that they would not consume
food again until this university has accepted all of our demands by
adopting a Living Wage policy based firmly on costs of living in DC. When
not in class or working, the protesting students and their supporters
gather in several tents set up on a campus square, and they have received
significant attention from the news media.
Liam Stack, a junior who is a spokesman for the student group, says that
one of the students gave up his hunger strike after he was hospitalized
because of a loss of vision. He doesnt have health insurance, so he
couldnt afford to continue, says Stack, who adds that the protester was
replaced by another student.
A spokeswoman for Georgetown, Julie Green Bataille, said the university is
committed to providing a fair and competitive compensation system for all
workers, including those, like janitors, who work on contracts. But she
said raising the wage abruptly as the students wish would result in wage
compression that could force layoffs of the very contract workers the
students are trying to help.
Bataille said a university committee that is due to meet today is likely to
recommend that administrators adopt the plan to raise the wage to $14 by
2008. Bataille said Georgetown officials could adopt the wage increase by
as soon as the middle of next week.
Leaders of the protest say the universitys adoption of its plan will not
end the hunger strike.
But Georgetown may turn up the heat on Tuesday, Bataille suggested. She
noted that the university had sent the students e-mails on Monday
explaining the health risks of a water-only diet, and urging them at least
to drink juice.
The e-mail message from James Welch, a student health administrator, asked
them to visit Welsh Monday afternoon to assure him that they were ingesting
more than water. If I do not hear from you, Welch wrote, I will assume
that you are participating in the hunger strike and ingesting only water,
and I will make recommendations to the vice president of student affairs to
address my concerns about your dangerous activities.
Bataille said that the university officials have the authority, in those
rare instances when they believe students may be putting themselves in
danger, to put them on leave as students and encourage them to seek
medical attention. She said she did not believe that action would be
necessary, because most of the students are telling us that theyre taking
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