Guarantee a living wage for all workers at the University of Virginia

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Guarantee a living wage for all workers at the University of Virginia

This petition had 1,290 supporters


Many of the University of Virginia’s lowest-paid employees—in our dining halls, dormitories, academic buildings, and outdoor spaces—struggle to cover their basic necessities with the wages that the University and its contractors provide. The work performed by these hard-working individuals is indispensable to the way that our University runs, yet our university administrators often turn a blind eye to their treatment and compensation.

Currently, the poverty rate in Charlottesville is a staggering 27.5 percent—nearly 3 times as high as that of the state of Virginia. The unemployment rate, however, is just 4.7% compared to Virginia’s 5.5%, suggesting that our community members are working full-time while also living below the poverty line. As the largest employer in Charlottesville, the University holds exceptional power over the city’s economic health. Its practice of unfair worker compensation needs to be stopped.

The Charlottesville living wage is calculated by the nonpartisan Economic Policy Institute to be $13.71 per hour + benefits for a family of four with two working adults. This number is derived from the current cost of living, and it must be tied to inflation. Currently, the University’s base wage is $11.53 an hour and contracted workers can be paid as little as the federal minimum wage. Paying a living wage to direct and contracted workers would require an additional fraction of one percent of the money that this University sits on. With an endowment of approximately $5 billion and an annual operating budget of $1.5 billion this year, UVa has the resources to compensate its staff fairly for their hard work—it is just a matter of priorities. That the University recently spent $10,000 for a police pod on the Corner and plans to allocate $1.6 million per year on private security proves that University administrators can find additional funds in the budget when they want to.

In “The Social Organization of Work,” a textbook that she herself authored, UVa President Teresa Sullivan asserts the following, plain and simple: "Being paid a living wage is necessary for one's self-actualization." How can President Sullivan’s policies contradict her own research?

We have been told by UVa administrators that worker wages at the University are none of their busines. But we insist that they are responsible for ensuring that all UVa workers are paid what they deserve as hard-working people: enough to live on.

We, the undersigned, demand that you do the following:

1)   schedule a negotiating meeting with members of Workers and Students United for a Living Wage and their legal team with senior members of the University administration responsible for overseeing budgets and finances,

2)    increase oversight of contracted corporations by means of an official audit of all contractors at the University,

3)    pay a living wage to all workers at the University of Virginia.



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