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April 4, 2006

Protest for wages

By MATTHEW D. SILVERMAN, The Vermont Cynic

This past Thursday in John Dewey Lounge close to 60 students, faculty and University employees gathered to give a press conference that kicked off a Week of Action in hopes of obtaining livable wages for all employees on campus.

During the press conference, which was organized and hosted by Student Labor Action Project (SLAP), leaders from different unions across campus gave short speeches. These speeches concerned the right to a livable wage, the benefits of unionizing on campus, and the need for worker solidarity.

According to the Burlington Free Press, President Daniel Fogel said UVM always has been committed to providing fair and competitive wages for its employees.

"Among universities, UVM is among the most progressive employers in the nation," Fogel said. "The raises we've given staff on a percentage basis have been at the top of the region as compared to the other New England land grant universities."

Meanwhile, student organizers and labor activists like senior Brady Fletcher claimed that UVM bows to corporate interests, referring to the many vice-presidents on campus that annually make ten times that of a custodial or clerical worker.

Rather than "walking the walk" and giving all university employees livable wages, Mr. Fletcher said that the administration has inadequately addressed the three demands SLAP delivered to the Board of Trustees on February 10th and published in The Vermont Cynic on February 14th.

Among others, these demands included; the right to organize, hiring outside contractors with apprentice programs, and a livable wage for every worker on campus.

SLAP uses the Vermont state livable wage, which is a little over twelve dollars an hour for a resident in Burlington.

Taking the podium, Ross Thomson, an economics professor and vice president of the teachers' union United Academics, spoke of how proud he was that students on campus were fighting for the people who work everyday to make this campus run. He stated that Vermont was a flagship university, which should support this movement because it is "entirely right for all workers to receive a livable wage."

Over the next week SLAP will be holding several events across campus to raise awareness about working conditions, culminating in a rally for livable wages at noon in front of Waterman.


© Copyright 2006 Vermont Cynic