Humble Contributions to the Peoples' History

Posts tagged ‘Living wage’

International Women’s Day: A Rally for $15/hr Minimum Wage

Philadelphia, 10th and Market Streets

Activists teamed up with retail and fast food workers to campaign for a $15 minimum wage by standing together at a rally on Market Street. I came into Philly to support this initiative because I participated in the Swarthmore College Living Wage and Democracy’s campaign to raise the base wage, and documented that effort here.  That campaign resulted in a wage increase for the lowest-paid employees at the College.

Many corporations that pay poverty wages compensate their CEO’s hundreds of times larger than their workers. For more information, check out this article, “466 Hours of Worker Overtime Equals One Hour of CEO Pay.”

Rally participants broke into groups to distribute red flowers to female workers at four different locations including McDonalds, Starbucks, Burger King and CVS.  Most folks who passed by the demonstration responded positively, and drivers honked their horns in support.

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Activists in Philadelphia Join Nationwide Protest of Low Minimum Wage

On International Women’s Day, Street Actions in Philly for Living Wage


Living Wage Lament

Rich folks have the money,
they also have control
poor folks have no money
we’re even in the hole.

We represent diversity
but we are not you’re cream
cause your diversity comes packaged
in a sales pitch lean and mean.

You keep you billon dollars
safely in the bank
no way in hell can touch it
for us who have no rank.

The future is what you talk ’bout
as if that’s all that matters,
you forget the present d’termines
who’ll remain in tatters.

We try and try to tell you
but you got blinders on.
for you can’t see or hear us
‘fraid you’re sense’s gone.

Those who toil and work
are different kind of folks
and never in a billion years
will you remove our yokes.

So it’s up to us to do it
for we must seek the prize
to get equal pay and benefits
and open people’ s eyes.

Swarthmore Interactive Living Wage Discussion with Activist Cecilia Marquez ’11

April 5, 2012
Swarthmore College

The Struggle for a Living Wage and Workplace Justice at the University of Virginia

Cecilia Marquez ’11, PhD candidate in History at the University of Virginia and a key student leader in the struggle for a living wage for UVA employees, engaged students in an interactive discussion about the history and context of the campaign at UVA, strategies and tactics employed (including a historic hunger strike, which received widespread media attention), and the successes and shortcomings of the campaign thus far. She contextualized the struggle at UVA within a larger climate of living wage and union recognition campaigns happening at universities all over the country.

Cecilia covered specific topics in campus organizing, such as how to effectively organize with campus staff and foster student-staff solidarity, how to run an effective media campaign, how to make decisions about tactics in a campaign, and how to negotiate with college administrators.

For more information, check out the Living Wage at UVW webpage here. Swarthmore Labor Action Project (SLAP!), which monitors wages since the College implemented increases since the Swarthmore College living wage campaign in 2005, sponsored the event.

“Ain’t no power like the power of the people, ’cause the power of the people don’t stop. Say what?!?!” 

Thanks to Danielle Noble for written content.

Some pictures and video from the evening’s discussion.

Specter of Economic Injustice Haunts the Nation

During our years working on the  Swarthmore College Living Wage and Democracy Campaign we used many venues, such as panels, rallies and lectures to advance the cause of a living wage for campus workers. For some of these events we incorporated street theater as one of the methods to bring attention to low wages at the College. Around Halloween in October of 2004 the Specter of Economic Injustice began wandering about the campus and town. Signs warned that the Specter was coming:

The Specter haunted the area for several weeks, sometimes showing up at events or just floating across the landscape. Over seven feet tall, the Specter, draped in black robes, carried chains intertwined with dollar bills. Piercing red eyes glowed in the night. Usually a sign carrier accompanied the Specter to clarify the message to those who were unaware.

We also distributed flyers stating . . .

Issues of unfair workers’ compensation have haunted the Philadelphia area. Many low-wage workers have difficulty putting food on the table, and food pantries have seen a huge increase in the number as working poor who seek their help. Swarthmore students have organized around this issue for years, citing their College’s commitment to Quaker values.  They believe Swarthmore College with its billion dollar endowment cannot teach students to improve the world while practicing social injustice toward campus workers.

This Halloween would be a good time for the Specter to appear again. I’m sure the Specter would be warmly welcomed  by  Philly Occupy. But just like the ghosts in Charles Dickens‘ Christmas Carol, the Specter would be visiting the Scrooges of the world.  So who are the Scrooges? The Specter might consider those who

  • block legislation for campaign finance reform
  • oppose universal health care
  • criticize workers for standing up for fair pay and benefits
  • support unregulated corporations
  • allow the public to suffer the consequences of pollution when companies make profits
  • thwart efforts to improve education
  • advocate for tax structures that give loopholes for the rich and hardships for the poor
  • profit from war

For us mortals we have to rely on other methods to further economic justice.  The Occupy folks have made the first successful steps. Now we must take up the banner and move forward. We can join with others who share our concerns to form a broader movement, run our own candidates, pressure the politicians with the vote, disengage from corporate control and encourage those who are making a difference.

Relying on the good will of the rich and powerful to relinquish influence and wealth will only result in the continued nightmare on Main Street.

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