Lindley Estes covers the University of Mary Washington for fredericksburg.com and The Free Lance-Star.
The University of Mary Washington’s chapter of Virginia Organizing
will hold a community forum on living wage campaigns and labor rights Saturday.
The forum, called “The Low Down on Labor Rights” is open to the public and will be held at 2 p.m. in Jepson Hall, room 100.
Graduate student and chapter leader Laura Gomez will also join the panel, made 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. “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.
However, average pay for cafeteria workers, groundskeepers, and housekeeping staff is well below a living wage, according to a release by Virginia Organizing about the event. The forum will address why these disparities exist and what students have done in the past to address the inequity and include information on future actions.
Gomez said the living wage issue is an important one t discuss, especially at the start of a new semester.
“We want to have a discussion about what a democratic workplace is and how to make it a reality,” she 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 issues, on the Fredericksburg campus.