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Forum set at UMW on living wage issues

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The University of Mary Washington’s chapter of Virginia Organizing will hold a community forum Saturday on living wage campaigns and labor rights. 

The forum, called “The Low Down on Labor Rights,” is open to the public and begins at 2 p.m. in Jepson Hall, room 100.

Graduate student and chapter leader Laura Gomez will also join a panel, made up mostly of UMW alumni, to discuss her undergraduate research on campus working conditions and employees’ access to health care.

“We know the University of Mary Washington is a venue for student learning and development, but it’s often overlooked that the university is also a major employer for the surrounding Fredericksburg community,” Gomez said. “It’s important to treat all our UMW community members with respect and appreciation, and we believe this entails fair compensation and the highest quality work environment possible.”

According to the MIT Living Wage Calculator, a single adult with no children needs to make $13.22 per hour to live in Fredericksburg and maintain a basic standard of living. Average pay for cafeteria workers, groundskeepers and housekeeping staff is well below a living wage in the area, according to a release by Virginia Organizing about the event.

The forum will address why these disparities exist, what students have done in the past to address the inequity and include information on future actions.

“We want to have a discussion about what a democratic workplace is and how to make it a reality,” Gomez said. “This discussion is so workers have more autonomy over the workplace, rather than there being a strict hierarchy.”

Gomez said she wants to raise awareness among the student body and the larger Fredericksburg community to prompt understanding and future discussions.

The event is co-sponsored by the departments of sociology and anthropology; geography; and women’s and gender studies at UMW.

The UMW chapter of Virginia Organizing also holds events for voter registration and shows films, followed by discussion about social is sues, on the campus.

Lindley Estes: 540/735-1976


WHAT: “The Low Down on Labor Rights,” a community forum on living wage campaigns and labor rights

WHEN: 2 p.m. today

WHERE: University of Mary Washington, 1301 College Ave., Jepson Hall, room 100