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Virginia: Student Activists Seek Living Wage
The Cavalier Daily
Sophie Arts

February 2, 2012
View the Original Article

Students and community leaders spoke yesterday afternoon at a rally on the Rotunda steps to celebrate “The Real Legacy of Martin Luther King” and emphasize the importance of continuing King’s fight against economic injustice.

The advocacy group the Virginia Progressive Action Network organized the rally, which included presentations by History Prof. Claudrena Harold, Dr. Rick Turner, Charlottesville/Albemarle NAACP president and former Dean of African-American Affairs, and a variety of student leaders.

At the rally, students pledged to continue Dr. King’s fight against economic inequality by advocating for better wages for University employees.

Students active in the Living Wage Campaign, Queer and Allied Activism, the NAACP at U.Va. and the Memorial for Enslaved Laborers Committee spoke, each giving their organization’s views on King’s legacy.

Multiple speakers stressed the need to protect workers’ civil rights and to create economic justice by instituting living wages for University employees.

Among the speakers at the rally was Carl David Goette-Luciak, a second-year College student and member of the Living Wage Campaign.

“Many employees at U.Va. are receiving starvation wages,” Goette-Luciak said. “We have the resources, the question is: do we have the will?”

Turner said decades have passed since King fought for the creation of jobs which would offer a living wage, but added he has not seen many changes in either the local or federal spheres.

“More than 40 years later, we continue to fall woefully short of his vision,” Turner said.

Emily Filler, Graduate Arts & Sciences student, Living Wage campaigner and member of the Virginia Progressive Action, said almost all of the lowest paid employees are people of color or women.

“[These] employees are paid considerably below the poverty line even if they work 48 hours a week,” she said.

Turner said many of these low-paid employees feel the University work environment does not allow them to develop their quality of life.

“We receive many calls in the NAACP office from low-wage workers who complain that no office [nor] the University helps them when they encounter issues of discrimination or when they complain about low wages,” Turner said. “They call the NAACP out of desperation and because they fear what might happen if they voice their grievances within the University.”

Goette-Luciak said the percentage of blacks employed by the University has dropped over time, while the percentage of blacks in the lowest wage bracket rose.

“Since the University has been remembering Dr. King all month, it’s important that [we] remember all of Dr. King’s message, which includes economic justice,” Filler said.

In 1963 King stood on the same steps where yesterday’s activists took place, Turner said.

“When Dr. King spoke here he was not a hero,” Goette-Luciak said. “He was a troublemaker. Dr. King is no longer controversial, but issues like [the] living wage still are. We must keep fighting for his dream where he has left off.”