Posted 5:46 p.m. April 8
by Jamie Meltzer
U-WIRE (DC BUREAU)
(U-WIRE) WASHINGTON – Students, laborers, immigrant rights and community organizations gathered across the country last week for the third annual National Student Labor Day of Action to show their opposition to “corporate greed,” according to a statement released by a coalition of groups known as Student Labor Action Process.
“There’s a dynamic where workers wages are going down,” said Treston Faulkner, coordinator of the student labor action project. “Workers are being stripped of their rights to have a living wage, to have health care, retirement — things we used to have. This has spread to college campuses.”
The day of action was held in memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who was killed on that date 34 years ago while supporting the rights of sanitation workers.
According to Faulker, the widening of labor problems within universities is especially troublesome because they are “supposed to be the bastions of democracy.” He said this classification was evident because that is where the next generation of Americans is taught.
“As students at colleges we pay the bills,” said Faulker. “We bring the prestige to our alma maters, we are the consumers and products of these institutions.”
As such, Faulker continued, the students should have a say in how the university spends its money.
Demonstrations for workers’ rights were held at campuses nationwide last week, including Stanford University, Morehouse College, Michigan State University, Duke University, Case Western Resave University and University of Pittsburg.Students in Washington, D.C., Providence, Philadelphia and Louisville also participated in the events.
In the first year of the National Student-Labor Day of Action, members of the Student Action Labor Project could be found on 40 college campuses. In 2001, the number doubled. This year, Faulkner said “his last count” showed that 113 colleges and universities had organized for the April 4 day of action.
Rashad Taylor is the head of the Morehouse Student Labor Alliance, at Morehouse College in Atlanta. Over 200 people gathered with him on April 4 to demand a “living wage” for the school’s sanitation workers. Under the current system, janitors earn $6 an hour and have little job security because they are offered no sick or emergency leave. If they are ill, they risk losing their jobs, Taylor said. The sanitation workers have less than 40 hours a week, which denies their entitlement of the benefits of a full-time employee, such as health insurance.
After last week’s demonstration, Taylor reported that sanitation worker’s salaries had been increased by $1. He was happy to learn that there wages would be a “little higher,” but said that this could be taken away at any time without union protection.
Taylor said that even though the Student Labor Day of Action was a successful event, he does not intend to stop with his fight. He intends to keep putting pressure on the company “to do right” and eventually he hopes to unionize the sanitation workers. This type of organization is beneficial, Taylor said, because the union will bargain for and protect the workers.
“This was a silencing move by the company to end our movement,” Taylor said. “But it won’t, we will press on.”
The day of action is a joint project between the United States Student Association and Jobs With Justice, a workers’ rights organization. The two groups, amongst others, joined forces in 1999 to show students working on labor rights that there were others in the country like themselves, Faulkner said.
This article appeared in the January 2, 2002 issue of the Hatchet.