(U-WIRE) WASHINGTON – Student protestors at Georgetown University
savored their success at a celebration Friday afternoon, after a hunger
strike won higher wages and better benefits for some university
A crowd of about 200 students, staff and special guests celebrated with
festivities including a lavish picnic. Speakers at the celebration
included DC Delegate Eleanor Holmes-Norton, a Georgetown law professor.
“The Georgetown hunger strikers are emblematic of the new generation of
student activists we saw in the 2004 presidential campaign who refuse
to be sidelined on the justice issues of their time,” Holmes-Norton
said in a statement on her Web site. “The Georgetown students, many of
them from privileged backgrounds, were not willing to receive the
services of workers without being assured that they received a living
wage, other benefits, and the opportunity to join a union.”
Twenty-six students participated in the nine-day hunger strike, a
campaign by the Georgetown Living Wage Coalition. On March 24, the
nine-day hunger strike ended when the university announced that it
would comply with nearly all of the coalition’s demands. It agreed to
raise the hourly wages of nearly all the 450 contract employees which
mostly include janitors, food service employees and security personnel.
“These are people we see everyday, who make it possible for us to go to
class,” Diane Foglizzo, a 21-year-old protestor, told the Washington
Post on March 21. “We can affect their lives directly now.”
For nine days, student protestors drank only water and juice. Some
students setup a large white tent in the middle of campus for medical
attention and to attract attention to the campaign. Students said the
strikes would not stop until the university officials met their
“It was crazy to walk by this big tent in the middle of campus and see
all of these really passionate students being totally unselfish,” said
GU freshman Matt Skinner, who supported the coalition’s efforts but
chose not to participate in the hunger strike. “I’m really glad that
the university was able to come to their senses and respect the
The university president could not be reached for comment. According
to GLWC’s Web site, strike participants lost a combined total of 270
pounds. The university sent letters to protestors’ parents telling them
to encourage their children to eat.
Several students required medical attention, some even taken to the
hospital. The average worker currently receives $11.33 an hour, which
includes wages and benefits, according to a Georgetown spokeswoman.
According to the university’s new “Just Employment Policy,” contract
workers will receive $13 per hour by July 1 of this year, and $14 by
July 1, 2007.
Beginning this July, workers hired directly will receive a minimum of
$14.08 per hour. The rates will be adjusted in the future accordingly
to deal with inflation.
“I can’t imagine having to support a family on such a small salary,”
said sophomore Sheryl Dambreville, “The workers I’ve seen around campus
seem a lot happier now in doing their jobs. There’s nothing specific
that I’ve noticed but just a few more smiles from them.”
GLWC defines a living wage as the total compensation a family needs to
meet its basic needs without any public or private assistance. The wage
doe not account for emergency needs and long term expenses, such as
purchasing a car and only provides enough income to cover basic housing
and nutrition costs.
This article appeared in the April 7, 2005 issue of the Hatchet.