Twelve students at the University of Virginia on Saturday began a hunger strike for a living wage policy for university employees. They've taken this step after having exhausted just about every other possible approach over a period of 14 years. I was part of the campaign way back when it started. I can support the assertion made by hunger-striking student A.J. Chandra on Saturday, who said,
"We have not spent 14 years building up the case for a living wage. Rather, the campaign has made the case over and over again."
This is the latest in a long series of reports making the case.
Another striking student, David Flood, explained,
"We have researched long enough. We have campaigned long enough. We have protested long enough. The time for a living wage is now."
"We have researched long enough. We have campaigned long enough. We have protested long enough. The time for a living wage is now."
UVA was the first campus with a living wage campaign back in the late 1990s, but many campuses that started later finished sooner. UVA has seen partial successes. In 2000, the university raised wages to what was at the time a living wage. But those gains have been wiped out by inflation. Local businesses have voluntarily met the campaign's demands, and the City of Charllottesville has both implemented a living wage policy and called on UVA to do so.
When we started, no one dared to say the word "union," but by 2002 a union had formed. It lasted until 2008, and now a new organizing drive is underway.
Workers, however, still fear being fired for joining a union or for joining the living wage campaign. (Does anyone recall the Employee Free Choice Act from way back yonder in 2008? It would really come in handy.) With workers fearing retribution, students and faculty are the campaign's public face, and even some students (especially those with scholarships) and faculty are afraid to take on that role.
In 2006, UVA students tried a sit-in as a tactic to pressure the University's Board of Visitors. The students were arrested after four days, and wage policies unaltered. But now they are looking to the model of Georgetown University's successful hunger strike in 2005.
Since 2006, the campaign has been building support among workers, faculty, and the Charlottesville community whose economy is dominated by UVA and almost a quarter of whose population is below the federal poverty line. Here's a debate on the topic from 2011. A petition has been signed by 328 faculty members.
A rally was held on the steps of the Rotunda on Saturday to launch the hunger strike. Chandra told the gathered crowd that this 14-year campaign by an ever-changing cast of students who typically stay only 4 years has tried teach-ins, concerts, film showings, petitions, letter-writing, marches, seminars, reports, and community outreach of all sorts. Speaking privately, he told me that the university measures its success by its publications and many other quantities. "The well being of the lowest paid workers," he said, "has to be part of deciding whether this is a successful institution."
Without pressure for action, Chandra said, "the same passive acceptance of injustice that allowed blacks to be excluded from UVA until 1950 and women until 1970" will win out.
Hunter Link is another hunger-striking student, the only one of the 12 not currently enrolled. He graduated in December. He pointed out that UVA sends students abroad to do service projects with money it could have used to pay its own workers a living wage. Of course, it also builds giant sports arenas, raises its top salaries, and adds more buildings to its main campus all the time.
For most of the past 14 years, UVA had a president who gave no indication that I ever saw of caring in the least what happened to the people who scrubbed his toilets. Now, UVA has a new president, its first female president. Her name is Theresa Sullivan, and she has published books, including quite recently, advocating for a living wage. When it comes to actually paying one at UVA, where doing so would cost a fraction of a percent of the billions of dollars UVA is hoarding, Sullivan sings a different tune.
Hunter Link read to the crowd on Saturday a letter from an unnamed worker who complained that President Sullivan talks about "a caring community" but -- asks the worker -- "what good are values if you don't live them?"
It's popular in U.S. politics these days to prefer words to actions, but the UVA living wage campaign is taking the opposite approach, pointing out the deceptions in Sullivan's claims.
"Contrary to President Sullivan's inexplicable claims," said hunger-striker David Flood, "real wages have declined in the past six years." Objecting to non-monetary compensation as an alternative to wages, Flood remarked to loud applause: "You cannot pay the rent with a course at UVA. You cannot buy medicine with a coupon good only at the UVA company store." Before UVA workers can take classes, Flood said, they must be able to buy housing, food, and medicine. They must be able to live in the community that they make possible. I would add that they must be able to quit their second or third jobs if they are to have time for taking classes.
The living wage campaign is demanding a minumum wage for direct, contracted, and subcontracted employees of no less that $13, and that wages be adjusted each year to comply with the Economic Policy Institute's regionally sourced cost-of-living and inflation calculations. This must be implemented without reducing other benefits, including healthcare, without under-staffing, without reducing hours worked, and without demanding increased productivity. We started out demanding $8, and if the University had met that demand and indexed it to the cost of living, this campaign would have ended. Professor Susan Fraiman, who has been part of the campaign from the start, remarked on Saturday that she very much hoped she was speaking at the last living wage rally that would be needed. That will depend on the impact of the hunger strike.
The strikers have set up a permanent vigil between the Rotunda and the UVA Chapel. The strikers are informed, articulate, dedicated, and deadly serious. They've had physicals and will consume only liquids. One of them, Hallie Clark, pointed out that the Black Student Alliance rallied for higher wages at UVA in 1969. This has been a long struggle indeed. And the majority of the lowest paid workers at this slave-built campus are still black. The honor code still forbids cheating on tests or treating students as if they would cheat on tests. But it does not at the moment require presidents who have publicly articulated the moral demand for a living wage to actually pay one.
President Sullivan must work with UVA's Board of Visitors. The board members are almost all from out of town. Most students and workers have no contact with them. They are not a part of the Charlottesville community. Some of them are graduates of UVA's Darden Business School, which of course teaches the benefits of low pay for workers other than oneself and erases from consideration the question of whether a worker must hold a second job, or must use only emergency rooms for healthcare, or must leave his or her children unsupervised. When I was a graduate student in philosophy at UVA, I took a course at Darden that was jointly listed as business and philosophy. The course sought to apply ethics to the view of business regularly promoted at Darden, which felt a bit like applying a stick of lipstick to a large and fast-moving pig.
Here's a list of the members of the Board of Visitors along with their phone numbers. You can also click their names to email them. Or click HERE to email them all at once. Hunter Link told me the campaign had been in touch with Mark Kington of the Finance Committee and found him less than supportive. Here's
what the various members do for their day jobs. Other than the student member and the ex-officio member, if you can find a connection between any of the other members and education please let me know. They seem to be almost all bankers, lawyers, CEOs, and . . . well, the sort of gang that ought to be the Board of Visitors for Darden Business School, not UVA; except they wouldn't have to visit as Darden has its own supply of these types.
President Sullivan is going to have to take the lead here. It is her students refusing to eat, across the street from her house. Her office phone is 434-924-3337. During the next week, she and the board members need to hear from every single one of us who cares. The Board of Visitors will be meeting next week. There will be rallies every day this week, leading up to that meeting. To get involved, go to livingwageatuva.org
Link to original article from War Is a Crime
RICHMOND — A federal jury Thursday found former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, guilty of public corruption — sending a message that they believed the couple sold the office once occupied by Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson to a free spending Richmond businessman for golf outings, lavish vacations and $120,000 in sweetheart loans.
After three days of deliberations, the seven men and five women who heard weeks of gripping testimony about the McDonnells’ alleged misdeeds acquitted the couple of several charges pending against them--but nevertheless found that...
Matt Zapotosky and Rosalind S. Helderman | The Washington Post 04 Sep 2014 Hits:455 Virginia
The federal corruption trial of former Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell illustrates the power held by prosecutors to destroy a defendant -- or, conversely, to grant a wrist slap.
As the trial finished its second week, looming large is the difference between the 14 counts McDonnell and his wife Maureen currently face and the prosecution's pre-trial offer of merely one count against the former governor if he would plead guilty.
The difference shows how our legal system grants prosecutors too much authority compared with that of judges and juries.
Juries theoretically decide a case....
Andrew Kreig | Justice Integrity Project 10 Aug 2014 Hits:540 Virginia
Departing House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said he will quit Congress altogether in August, ending a once-promising political career in a bid to give his successor a chance for an early turn in office.
Cantor told the Richmond Times-Dispatch he will resign his seat in the House of Representatives effective Aug. 18.
"I want to make sure that the constituents in the 7th District will have a voice in what will be a very consequential lame-duck session," he told the newspaper in a story published late Thursday.
Cantor had originally said he would...
Catalina Camia | USA Today 01 Aug 2014 Hits:499 Virginia
Geraldine Zenteno knew exactly where she wanted to go after graduation.
Researching universities, the 17-year-old T.C. Williams senior had fallen in love with The College of William and Mary. Zenteno wants to pursue a teaching career and the Williamsburg school’s education program ranks among the best in the country, according to U.S. News & World Report.
But her heart sank when she took a look at the cost of attending. Despite calling Virginia home for years, Zenteno was ineligible for in-state tuition.
“The fact that I had to go from knocking off a...
Derrick Perkins | Alexandria Times 17 Jun 2014 Hits:853 Virginia
Empowered by their new majority in the State Senate, Republicans have moved to checkmate Gov. Terry McAuliffe in a monthslong contest over Medicaid, passing a budget that does not include the Medicaid expansion the governor sought and forbidding him from unilaterally expanding the health care program for the poor.
Mr. McAuliffe was defiant, declaring that “this fight is far from over” in a statement early Friday morning after votes on Thursday by both chambers of the General Assembly.
But it is unclear how much room the governor has for unilateral action on...
Trip Gabriel | The New York Times 15 Jun 2014 Hits:468 Virginia
The Democratic Party is already signaling that they won’t be solidly backing Jack Trammell, the Democratic candidate for Eric Cantor’s old seat after Cantor announced that he won’t run as a write-in candidate.
Roll Call reported this morning that, “National Democrats are considering competing for House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s House seat in the unlikely case the Virginia Republican runs as a write-in candidate in November.” That report meant that the Democratic Party wasn’t planning on getting solidly behind their nominee in the 7th district, Jack Trammell. Those plans became definite...
Jason Easley | Politicus 13 Jun 2014 Hits:1139 Virginia
In a stunning upset propelled by tea party activists, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) was defeated in Tuesday’s congressional primary, with insurgent David Brat delivering an unpredicted and devastating loss to the second most powerful Republican in the House who has widely been touted as a future speaker.
The race called shortly after 8 p.m. Eastern by the Associated Press.
Brat’s victory gives the GOP a volatile outlook for the rest of the campaign season, with the party establishment struggling late Tuesday to grapple with the news and tea party conservatives...
Robert Costa | Washington Post 10 Jun 2014 Hits:485 Virginia
RICHMOND — There was a time when House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) sympathized with the tea party’s frustration with Washington.
Now, he’s engaged in open warfare with the GOP’s insurgent wing.
This week, Cantor’s opponent in the June 10 primary — a tea party activist named David Brat — is gaining national attention as a potential threat to Cantor’s hold on his solidly Republican, suburban Richmond district. Brat has won support from some big-name conservatives and has tapped into discontent across Virginia’s 7th Congressional District. On Wednesday, Brat planned to travel...
Jenna Portnoy and Robert Costa | The Washington Post 14 May 2014 Hits:622 Virginia
In the run-up to midterm congressional elections that both major parties see as crucial, Virginia is again a magnet for political donations as candidates vie for two open seats in the House of Representatives.
Republicans and Democrats are steering money in a big way toward favored candidates in Northern Virginia’s 10th and 8th districts.
Republican Barbara J. Comstock, in the 10th, and Democrat Don Beyer, in the 8th, are far ahead of their opponents in raising funds for their party nomination bids, new federal campaign disclosure reports showed Wednesday.
Comstock, a state delegate...
Antonio Olivo and Patricia Sullivan | The Washington Post 17 Apr 2014 Hits:628 Virginia
Del. Patrick A. Hope, D-Arlington, said Saturday that he will oppose Richmond Mayor Dwight C. Jones as chairman of the Democratic Party of Virginia if Jones still opposes same-sex marriage.
“The chair of the Democratic Party of Virginia needs to reflect our values as a party,” Hope said in a statement posted on the Blue Virginia blog. “This has been a historic year for marriage equality, and we cannot have a chair of the party that does not support this civil right.”
Hope is one of 11 Democrats seeking the party’s nomination...
Andrew Cain | Richmond Times-Dispatch 02 Mar 2014 Hits:524 Virginia
Thank you so much for signing the petition, making phone calls and sending emails; all your hard work has paid off. Tomorrow the Virginia House of Delegates will hear the Equal Rights Amendment in the Elections subcommittee. The bill was placed in this subcommittee so that a woman (Del. Margaret Ransone) could "kill the bill" leaving all the good Southern gentlemen blameless.
But we're fighting back!
Our Chief Senate Patron, Civil Rights Legend, Senator Henry Marsh will present the bill tomorrow morning. There will be a committee debate and by law, we...
26 Feb 2014 Hits:535 Virginia
House Republicans will force a vote Thursday on whether to expand Medicaid, briefly plucking the contentious issue out of a massive state budget bill in a move meant to show overwhelming GOP opposition to Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s top legislative goal.
The House will subject the expansion plan to an up-or-down floor vote — something the measure would not ordinarily get since it is part of the two-year, $96 billion state spending plan.
Supporters of expansion dismissed the planned vote as a meaningless gimmick. Even after its expected defeat Thursday in the House, the...
Laura Vozzella and Michael Laris | The Washington Post 20 Feb 2014 Hits:563 Virginia
The federal judge who struck down Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage Thursday is an appointee of President Obama and in 2011 became the first black woman appointed as a federal District Court judge in Virginia.
Arenda Wright Allen, born in 1960, is a Philadelphia native who spent decades as a government lawyer: first for the Navy’s Judge Advocate General’s Corps, then as a federal prosecutor, and finally as a public defender. She is married to a retired pro soccer player from Jamaica and has two children — one of them named...
David A. Fahrenthold | The Washington Post 14 Feb 2014 Hits:600 Virginia
Del. Charniele Herring said Thursday that she is running for the seat of retiring Rep. James P. Moran Jr. (D-Va.), adding to a crowded field and leaving a vacancy atop the Virginia Democratic Party.
“If elected, I will continue the good works of Congressman Jim Moran to foster the economic development of Northern Virginia, address the needs of our veterans, work for access to affordable healthcare, and protect the privacy of a woman and her healthcare decisions,” she said in a statement.
Herring, who represents Alexandria in the General Assembly, is at...
Ben Pershing | The Washington Post 24 Jan 2014 Hits:620 Virginia
RICHMOND — Virginia Attorney General Mark R. Herring announced Thursday that he believes the state’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional, and he joined two same-sex couples in asking a federal court to strike it down.
The action, which Herring (D) made with the support of Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D), marks a stunning reversal in the state’s legal position on same-sex marriage and is a result of November’s elections, in which Democrats swept the state’s top offices.
Democrats cheered the move as a victory for civil rights while Republicans blasted it as...
Robert Barnes and Laura Vozzella | The Washington Post 23 Jan 2014 Hits:555 Virginia
Expanding Virginia’s Medicaid program to about 250,000 uninsured Virginians initially would produce savings of $1 billion through 2022, according to new estimates produced by the state Medicaid office.
The estimate represents a swing of more than $1 billion from a Medicaid analysis a year ago, when state health officials estimated a net cost to the state of $137.5 million over the nine-year period. In 2010, the estimated cost of expansion to the state exceeded $2.1 billion over 10 years.
The new numbers were presented to Gov. Terry McAuliffe on Tuesday and to...
Michael Martz | Richmond Times Dispatch 23 Jan 2014 Hits:538 Virginia
Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, were indicted today by a federal grand jury on 14 counts stemming from the first couple’s acceptance and solicitation of thousands in gifts and loans from a wealthy businessman during McDonnell’s term.
The indictment, spelled out in an extensive document filed by the United States Attorney for the Eastern District, paints a detailed portrait of how the governor and his wife accepted more than $135,000 in direct payments as gifts and loans from then-Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams Sr., in addition to...
Jim Nolan | Richmond Times Dispatch 21 Jan 2014 Hits:581 Virginia
Gov. Terence R. McAuliffe pledged to find common ground after officially taking the oath of office Saturday and becoming the state of Virginia’s 72nd governor on a rainy day outside the state Capitol building designed by Thomas Jefferson.
“It is humbling, and the highest honor of my life, to stand before you today,” Mr. McAuliffe said before a crowd of thousands.Mr. McAuliffe devoted his approximately 16-minute inaugural address to highlighting the history of obstacles the state has overcome, first during the American Revolution, and now, as the commonwealth works its way out of the throes of an economic recession.Mr. McAuliffe praised the...
Dave Sherfinski | The Washington Times 12 Jan 2014 Hits:495 Virginia
State Sen. Mark D. Obenshain (R) conceded the race for Virginia attorney general to Democrat Mark R. Herring on Wednesday, bringing the election to a belated end and giving Democrats a sweep of statewide offices — but throwing control of the state Senate into question.
The move allowed Herring to claim victory for the third time since Nov. 5 in a contest that on election night was the closest statewide race in Virginia history. It also spared a three-judge panel in Richmond from having to continue slogging through more 100 ballots...
Laura Vozzella and Ben Pershing | The Richmond Times Dispatch 18 Dec 2013 Hits:524 Virginia
Rep. Frank Wolf announced Tuesday that he would not run for reelection in 2014, ending a distinctive three-decade career in Congress and instantly making his bellwether Northern Virginia seat a prime November battleground.
Though the 74-year-old Republican has been a perennial subject of retirement rumors, his decision came as a surprise — as recently as last week, leaders in both parties fully expected him to run for an 18th term. But in a statement issued by his office, Wolf said he planned to continue his longtime work on humanitarian issues.
Ben Pershing | The Washington Post 17 Dec 2013 Hits:527 Virginia
RICHMOND — The state Board of Elections on Monday certified Democrat Mark R. Herring as the winner of the Nov. 5 election for Virginia attorney general, even as the board chairman raised questions about the “integrity” of the vote tallies.
A recount seems likely in the closest-ever statewide election in Virginia history, although the losing candidate did not immediately call for one.
Herring, a state senator from Loudoun County, beat state Sen. Mark D. Obenshain (R-Harrisonburg), by 165 votes out of more than 2 million cast.
Herring had 1,103,777 votes to Obenshain’s 1,103,612,...
Laura Vozzella | The Washington Post 25 Nov 2013 Hits:956 Virginia
Already shaping up to be one of the closest races in state history, a last-minute rule change is stirring up the recount to decide who will become Virginia's next attorney general.
The Daily Press of Newport News, Va. reported Friday that Republican candidate Mark Obenshain had an unofficial lead of just under 1,300 votes over Democratic challenger Mark Herring. That tally did not include full provisional ballot totals, and as of Saturday, a fresh rule change was complicating matters.
(photo: The two major party candidates for Virginia Attorney General - Democrat Mark Herring,...
Chris Gentilviso | Huffington Post 10 Nov 2013 Hits:789 Virginia
Fairfax County election officials said Friday that they believe nearly 2,000 votes went uncounted after Tuesday’s elections, a technical error that could affect the outcome of the still unresolved race for Virginia attorney general.
The error stemmed from problems with a broken machine at the county’s Mason district voting center, officials said.
The machine, known as an optical scanner, recorded 723 votes on election night before it broke down, election officials said. Its memory card was then placed in a working machine, which recorded 2,688 votes.
But that tally was not included in...
Antonio Olivo and Ben Pershing | The Washington Post 08 Nov 2013 Hits:502 Virginia
Less than 24 hours after winning Virginia’s governorship in a bitterly contested campaign, Gov.-elect Terry McAuliffe on Wednesday announced his transition team and reiterated his pledge to govern in a bipartisan manner over the next four years.
Del. Jennifer McClellan, D-Richmond, will lead the transition team, along with Republican John Chichester, a former state senator from Stafford County.
McAuliffe said the first executive order that he signs will prohibit discrimination in the state workforce based on race, gender or sexual orientation. He said his second executive order will bar the governor or...
Jim Nolan | Richmond Times Dispatch 07 Nov 2013 Hits:649 Virginia
Capping a day of electoral twists and turns, Republican Mark Obenshain last night clung to a narrow lead over Democrat Mark Herring in a contest for attorney general that appears headed for a recount.
Counts by the Virginia State Board of Elections are pending final certification on Nov. 25.
Both candidates expressed optimism that they would win the contest but asked supporters for donations to help fund possible legal challenges.
As of 9 p.m. Wednesday, Obenshain led by 681 votes out of more than 2.2 million cast, according to the Board of Elections....
Markus Schmidt | The Richmond Times Dispatch 07 Nov 2013 Hits:689 Virginia
Terry McAuliffe, a businessman and former head of the Democratic National Committee, captured the Virginia governor’s seat Tuesday, defeating Republican Ken Cuccinelli II, the state attorney general whose conservative crusades made him an icon of the tea party movement.
With 95 percent of the precincts reporting, McAuliffe edged ahead of Cuccinelli by about 25,000 votes, or about 1 percent. By 10 p.m., Edison Media Research, NBC, CBS, CNN and Fox News had projected McAuliffe as the winner.
The Democrat was far ahead in Northern Virginia, according to early returns, while Cuccinelli had...
Paul Schwartzman and Jeremy Borden | The Washington Post 05 Nov 2013 Hits:655 Virginia
The students greeted the boyish-faced man in the charcoal suit as the stranger he is to Virginia politics.
“Hi — Rob Sarvis, running for governor,” the Libertarian said, wading into an auditorium of seniors at a Northern Virginia high school’s “Meet the Candidates” day. Polite smiles. Handshakes. Giggles. Silence.
Sarvis sat alongside stand-ins for his opponents, Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Ken Cuccinelli, who apparently had more important places to be than a gathering of teenagers, many of them not old enough to vote.
Libertarian candidates have never made much of a dent...
Paul Schwartzman | The Washington Post 04 Oct 2013 Hits:722 Virginia
A Republican congressman from defense-rich Hampton Roads has emerged as the point man in a push for congressional approval of an Obama administration military strike on Syria.
“Though consulting with Congress is helpful, it is in no way an adequate substitute for President Obama obtaining statutory authority from Congress prior to the use of military force, as required by the Constitution,” said Rep. Scott Rigell, R-2nd, who also condemned the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons.
Rigell, an auto dealer and Marine veteran first elected in 2010, represents a heavily military and...
Andrew Cain | Richmond Times Dispatch 02 Sep 2013 Hits:713 Virginia
More than 300 chanting, sign-carrying marchers streamed through downtown Richmond on Saturday in a local commemoration of the historic civil rights protest in Washington 50 years ago this past week.
“Somebody said Jim Crow is dead,” the Rev. Thurman Echols Jr., pastor of Moral Hill Baptist Church in Axton and a veteran activist, told a rally at the state Capitol. “But his children and grandchildren are still alive.”
The March on Richmond for Jobs and Freedom was organized by the local chapters of the Urban League, the NAACP, Living the Dream Inc....
Jeff Schapiro | The Richmond Times Dispatch 02 Sep 2013 Hits:711 Virginia
Attorneys for Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, will spend Monday locked in separate hours-long meetings trying to convince federal prosecutors that the first couple should not be charged in the gifts scandal that has dominated state politics.
The meetings open a new, critical phase of the investigation, timed to help prosecutors decide over the next few weeks whether to file charges, according to two people with knowledge of the investigation.
Federal authorities have been investigating whether McDonnell (R) agreed to take official actions to aid nutritional supplement company...
Rosalind S. Helderman and Carol D. Leonnig, | The Washington Post 19 Aug 2013 Hits:775 Virginia
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