A football player from the University of Virginia is currently on a hunger strike to protest against the treatment of the service sector employees on campus. The player is junior safety Joseph Williams and in an essay Williams explained his reasons:
“I am a third year studying Political and Social Thought, and a student-athlete at the University of Virginia. Last Friday, 12 University students began a hunger strike to protest the economic and social injustices perpetrated by the UVa administration against the vast majority of the University’s service-sector employees. I joined two days later; since then, 5 more students have joined the hunger strike, which is now closing in on in its 7th day. Although the University of Virginia – Thomas Jefferson’s brainchild and the only US university designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site – has the prestige and high moral traditions of other top institutions, levels of inequality exist here today that are reminiscent of Jefferson’s days as a slave-master and plantation owner – with one anonymous employee even referring to the University’s Grounds as ‘the plantation’”
Williams, along with the other students believe that the $7.25 an hour is not nearly a livable wage in Charlottesville which apparently is 10% above the cost of living average. Williams goes further:
“In failing to implement a living wage for its lowest paid employees, the University of Virginia has also failed to uphold the moral standards to which it holds its students. We are engaging in this hunger strike to call attention to the administration’s moral hypocrisy and to finally produce results in the form of a Living Wage. Although I am exhausted, hungry, dry-mouthed, and emotionally taxed, I believe it is my responsibility as a member of the University community, and even more as a member of the human race, to stand up and speak for those whose voices have been silenced and whose livelihoods are marginalized by the policies of the current University administration. Thus, it disheartens me and my fellow campaigners that while these workers are being systematically discriminated against and exploited, there are plans to spend millions of dollars on superfluous additions such as a domed practice field for the football team, hundreds and thousands of flowers around Grounds, and countless other trivialities. In short, we, as hunger strikers of the Living Wage Campaign, students of the University of Virginia, members of the Charlottesville community, and fierce believers in the human race, refuse to lie down any longer and watch the exploitation and marginalization of University employees and, more importantly, our fellow members of the human race. So until this cause is heard and the University administration pays the wages that its employees have long deserved – we will be striking.”
For the full essay click here.
Something tells me this young man is going places. Anyone who is willing to take a stand such as this has a significant amount of guts. It is good to see a college athlete stand up for something. Whether you agree with his stance or not, he clearly is willing to go out on a limb and articulate his position in a very eloquent fashion. I applaud the young man and am rooting for the outcome to satisfy their protest demands.