Unsatisfied: Hunger strike ends with mixed messages

After a hunger strike lasting up to 13 days and following a statement from UVA administration declining to raise the minimum wage at UVA to $13 an hour, activists for the Living Wage Campaign at UVA suspended the strike on March 1– but they're declaring victory nonetheless.

"The administration was forced to acknowledge this Campaign," says former hunger striker Tim Bruno, "and, more importantly, the crisis of low wages and the invisibility of contract workers on our campus."

A grad student who went 11 days without eating, Bruno points to national media attention and University-wide emails sent by President Teresa Sullivan and V-P Michael Strine as evidence of impact.

"We have engaged the UVA student body in an unprecedented way," Bruno notes in an email to a reporter. "We have educated it in an unprecedented way."

A statement on the website of the Living Wage Campaign promises a coming escalation: "To this administration, which has so far failed to provide moral leadership to our University, we have only this to say: get ready, because we are already here. We will hold you accountable for your promises."

UVA laid down its position on February 29 in a statement by Strine, the school's chief operating officer, citing the challenges of "trying to hold down tuition, meet the growing demands for financial aid, grow student enrollment, advance learning and create knowledge, as we also serve the growing health care needs of patients across the Commonwealth."

While implicitly denying Living Wagers' demand, Strine did address some of the protesters' concerns, including giving "specific focus" to raises for the lowest-paid employees and examining the school's use of contractors.

The statement won immediate praise from the Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce, which suggested that the demand that UVA raise its minimum wage, if not illegal, was clearly unwise.

"Our Chamber," according to President Timothy Hulbert, "is skeptical about achieving any real positive economic effects from governmental wage-fixing regulations." Hulbert claims that UVA– as the area's largest employer– could create a detrimental domino effect on other area businesses.

"The unintended consequences of even the most well-intentioned prescription can be injurious to the university, its contractors, and our greater community," he writes in a open letter to President Sullivan. "The sound management of the University, with its strong commitment to enhance the lives of its entire workforce and our community, is a far better path."

Such sentiments haven't deterred the Living Wagers, including Bruno, who lost 14 pounds during his 11 days without food. While describing the physical and psychological tolls as "brutal," he says he'd probably muster the will to do it again.

"The University of Virginia has perpetuated economic injustice throughout its history," Bruno asserts. "This was, above all, a moral victory over a University that has the resources to make lives better but chooses not to."


It was a victory except for the fact they didn't win.

And I'm glad they didn't, this would set a bad precedent if all you have to do is starve yourself to get your way.

On the Living Wage:

"The statement won immediate praise from the Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce, which suggested that the demand that UVA raise its minimum wage, if not illegal, was clearly unwise.

"Our Chamber," according to President Timothy Hulbert, "is skeptical about achieving any real positive economic effects from governmental wage-fixing regulations." Hulbert claims that UVA– as the area's largest employer– could create a detrimental domino effect on other area businesses.

"The unintended consequences of even the most well-intentioned prescription can be injurious to the university, its contractors, and our greater community," he writes in a open letter to President Sullivan. "The sound management of the University, with its strong commitment to enhance the lives of its entire workforce and our community, is a far better path."

On the Human Rights Commission:

"Timothy J. Hulbert, president of the Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce, said he’s been contacted by chamber members who are outright opposed to the commission and others who are simply concerned about what it would look like." (The Daily Progress Published: December 22, 2011).

Well at least we know who runs this town and how the politicians/administrators work with the business community prevent justice and change. There's a name for an alliance between government and business, its called fascism.

Love the Gen Y'ers with their 8th place ribbons thinking we won. Yeah, in a race with UVA, they came in third.

The reason nothing changes in this country is that we have become lemmings. One of the most American things we can do is protest. In the current, post-9/11 thinking, it has become unfashionable, even un-American to protest. The fact is, nothing will change if we just sit on our asses and point fingers, ridiculing those trying to change things. I don't come down on one side or the other on this topic. I'm simply not informed enough to have an intelligent opinion (doesn't stop most posters, myself included most of the time). You don't have to agree with their views, but you should be thankful they aren't following the rest of us off the cliff.

Protest is great and all, but try taking the food out of UVa's mouth rather than your own, TRANSFER. You voluntarily provide this institution with thousands of $$ a year but 'starving' yourself is your go-to means of showing displeasure??
Oh, and "We have engaged the UVA student body in an unprecedented way," Bruno notes in an email to a reporter. "We have educated it in an unprecedented way." is such self-serving hyperbole that its author should be embarrassed to show his face on grounds. If you've had such a far reaching impact, let someone else acknowledge it.

The arrogance is what gets me. Why do these hunger-strike people think they know anything about UVA's budget and finances? It's like they're saying "Those people should get more pay, I don't care about numbers, just give it to them."

What would happen if I went to my private employer (non government/UVa) and told them to raise the salaries of the lowest workers at this company or else I am going to go on a hunger strike and start carrying banners out side against you...

Thanks for my Friday afternoon laugh. One wonders why Mr Bruno would attend an institution that in his words "has perpetuated economic injustice throughout its history" I mean there must be hundreds of Universities that have only perpetuated economic injustice for a few years or so, why not attend one of them? Stick it to the man Mr. Bruno!! Withhold your tuition dollars from the Evil Empire that is UVA

"In the current, post-9/11 thinking, it has become unfashionable, even un-American to protest." I assume this was meant as parody. During the Bush administration dissent was hailed as "the highest form of patriotism" and anyone voicing any half-baked opinion at variance with administration policy was praised for "speaking truth to power". You should be glad you missed that period. It was tedious, believe me.

Interesting that it all came to a convenient end as Spring Break hit the UVA calendar. If these individuals were really committed to making a statement, they would sacrifice some of their social plans. This is a resume builder for any student who wants to go work for a company that employs union workers. I agree with the previous comment that if you don't like the way UVA pays its workers, TRANSFER. To the hunger strikers: you applied to UVA, you were accepted, no one made you attend. Do your parents have jobs? If so, do their companies pay their lowest paid workers what you perceive to be a living wage? If not, then perhaps you should carry on your strike at home.

UVa is a non-profit organization (the academic side, not the hospital). so why can't it pay $13/hr and just refrain from adding other glamorous items to the next new building on grounds? refusing to eat is much like holding your breath to get what you want, but UVa could certainly adjust its spending on other assets to afford a higher wage for bottom-line workers. businesses fool themselves if they want, dedicated, detail-oriented, professional, friendly, team-player w/ positive attitude and ability to work variety of shifts - for $8/hour.

Mixed message? I think the message is very clear. YOU DID NOT WIN ANYTHING!

Now you say you have a few unions who want to "organize" the contract employees.

I would think that they will be able to "organize" them to get them to pay into the union dues bank, which is all the union wants!

If the union were really interested and thought they could do this, why didn't they try it on their own.

Good luck, and good riddence...............punks!

The message is this (in the context of Davy Jones's death)...
Stephen Stills auditioned for The Monkees. He was rejected. Then he joined a band that supposedly was activist (you know, "For What It's Worth"). If he had been accepted into The Monkees, he would have ridden the crest of commercial success for two years, made lots of money, and completely gone past the activist era while achieving some commercial (albeit artificial) success.
Lesson: these hunger strikers had nothing better to do and--if offered the chance--would have taken a job paying money and abandoned any so-called cause.
Definition: lazy hypocrites.

R.I.P.: Don van Vliet

The real message is: Be an Uncle Tom poster boy Negro and ring the bell--you'll be eulogized like a team mascot. Mop the floors in 2012 and get a shiving wage.

Rick Turner this would be a good time to speak up.

and then these protesters will have to explain why they did what they did to a potential employer and wonder why they did not get the job............

or perhaps one of them becomes an accountant, HR person, or owns a company and finally sees what this is all about, and why there is a minimum wage for minimum skills- has nothing to do with a "living" wage.........

or will they stay in academia to teach the next generation

In the long list of signatures on the UVA Faculty petition supporting the Living Wage, there was not a single signature from any at the Darden School of Business. Zero.

How do you not get what you want and claim victory? I do respect the right of someone to protest for a cause, but I don't have to agree with their view. And, not all causes are created equal. Civil rights movement of the 60's.....ok, I respect that quite a bit. This "living wage" stuff, while it may be based on a desire to help others, is just stupid. Go work at a soup kitchen, mentor young kids, help at an underperforming school, pick up trash on the road......

I noticed that people can get up to $5,751 as Earned Income Tax Credit. That's almost $2.88/hr for an annual 2,000 hours. Adding that to UVA's lowest and it's more than $13/hr. Add to that Free and Reduced Breakfast and Lunch and snacks and these guys are living large.
@Those Cows Are Far Away, you ought to take Turner's place and speak up.
It is clear that Mr. Bruno is delusional. It is so amazing how these people think they know what is best for others by looking at one set of figures.

"these guys are living large."

seriously? you could make the point that, by pulling together the EI tax credit and free/reduced price lunch program (which of course only helps you out if you have kids, but whatever, be sloppy in your thinking), combined with full-time employment (full-time in order to get the benefits) at $13/hour (which isn't what the lowest paid at UVa get, but again, whatever, be sloppy), that people can cobble together a decent living situation (still requiring assistance for housing, probably), but to say they're "living large"? that just makes you sound like a clueless ass.

For the Chamber of Commerce to support a wage increase would hurt many of the members of the Chamber. They would leave the Chamber in droves. The Chamber is little more than a trade union/highly paid lobbyists for the wealthy and the business owners. In this town, the have's have it all. They want the beauty, the amenities, low taxes, cheap labor, fine dining and household help. Of course, they don't want to pay for any of it.

The have not's don't have the Chamber to be their voice in issues such as this. I wonder if the "leadership" of the University ever thinks about who cleans the place, who cuts the grass, who repairs the historic buildings, who prepares food and who serves the food???? These are not nameless, faceless people. And they are a dying breed.

Remember this quote.........

"A society that scorns excellence in plumbing and tolerates shoddiness in philosophy will have neither good plumbing nor good scholarship. Neither its pipes nor its theories will hold water."

How did the living wage people get Vanderbuilt University to do the right thing? I think the actions there led to something substantive.

Let's face it UVA with it 5 billion dollar endowment is a business just like IBM. When I walked over to the LV campaign one day I ran into an African-American contract worker who was in support of the LW campaign as he was tired of living paycheck to paycheck. When I asked him what would happen if he joined the LW protest he said his boss would fire him. Fear Fear Fear-that's why we don;t have protests anymore or free speech for that matter. YOu speak out, it gets back to your boss and you are fired. You can't have democracy in a climate of fear. Sullivan should assure no firing or retribution for free speech.

When the Cville did their story on Monticello and Slavery, they made the point that slaves were kept in line by the threat of having their families sold away. Can you imagine what decades and decades and generations of that kind of fear would do to your resolve to speak out publicly about something like a living wage? Workers of all colors and backgrounds live in fear of losing their job in a right to work state. Shameful the University participates i the cultural psychology of fear mongering.

The UVA bullying problem (e.g. Kevin Morrissey) is related to a lack of workplace democracy. We say we live in a democracy but it has nothing to do with our day to day lives. We spend 1/3 of the day in employment that has no free speech, no democratic decision making. I am all for capitalism but it should be a humane and democratic capitalism. Up until 1930, the University was run by the faculty not a professional class of MBA Managers-maybe there a problem there.

If the University administrators are so hamstrung by state policy, maybe Sullivan and Strine should go on a hunger strike until the BOV and the Legislators raise taxes so that the University can be supported by more than 13-14% by the State, it is a State university by the way. The administrators with their high salaries, free houses, cars, and jets, are just a class of overseers doing the bidding of the masters in Richmond. The BOV are just wealthy people being paid off for their campaign contributions to the governors who don't care about the AA man I ran into on the way to the LW campaign. Adminsitrators are part of the managerial class they don't care about the 8.00/hr worker who has to work 2-3 jobs to make ends meet.

The LW campaign is going to have to bump up the strategy if they are going to accomplish anything. The conservative student body is useless. Maybe the faculty senate might have some spine, who knows. But the protesters should coordinate wit the Occupy protesters, the NAACP, and Virginia Organizing (Where were they in all this?). Bring in students from other universities. 500 people in front of Madison Hall you can't ignore. Blue flu by every UVA employee would get some attention. A union would get some attention.

The University Administrators (President Sullivan's cabinet) should be ashamed of themselves. Have they not seen slavery by another name? How much does Sullivan make? How much does Strine Make?....Do they ever, ever have real conversations wit people making $ 8.00/hr? Do they visit their homes? Do the ever go through the surrounding neighborhoods to see how the other half live?

President Sullivan: Do the right thing not the politic managerial thing. You have a choice.

@Hoolarious, nobody lives large on $13/hr, fool. My point is taaaaaaaari o twas esu bnficialo he wage earner. At some point, the earner will begin to lose his safety net. Has anyone figured out when that is? Has anyone calculated the dollar equivalence of all of the subsidies that these people are receiving that they may lose? BTW, peopl ofther than those with children are also eligible for EIC. I just helped a single lady with TurboTax and she is receiving the credit.
Why aren't you people who are encouraging this movement out there on the front lines? I suspect it is because you know the politics of wages is far more than is being presented.
For example, UVA starts requiring its contractors pay at least $13/hr. The contract is not going to be the one who pays it, UVA will.Not only will it be paying the increase in hourly wage, it will also pay the increases in unemployment and social security. It will also be paying the increases in the managers' salaries do to the fact that they be making more than those they manage. Then all of the lab techs, etc. will be expecting raises because they feel they should be paid more than somebody just putting food on a tray. Their supervisors will also be expecting a raise. Then the part-time will rebel. They degrees and may be making a dollar more than the grass cutter.
BTW, does anyone no where the rate of $13/hr came from? Why isn't Kristin Szakos directing the group to City Hall which does not pay $13/hr? I suspect none of this is out of concern for the worker abandoned becuase of Spring Break and March Madness. It is all ego.
@Citizen Party, what difference does it make if the man was African American? Are there no white people that are in fear of losing theirs jobs? Aren't you really trying to add more favor to the pot of downtrodden. Joyce Breeden led a bunch of employees for several years without getting fired so why do you think things have changed?

What I really find remarkable is that the students and faculty protesters and petition signers are not promoting the idea that the workers get better training so that they can move up the ladder at UVA. After all doesn't everybody value education? Thinking about deeper they don't want the people to leave those jobs because they end up competing with the studnts and the faculty spouses for better paying jobs down the road. That means the students and faculty spouses may be offered the grass cutting jobs. It says "Stay at the bottom and we will fight to see to it that you are paid a wage that you scrape around on and we have have a lighter conscious." Yes, I have seen this too often.

and the unions want a piece of the contract employees action................let's see where that leads

Last time I went on hunger strike they threatened to stick a feeding tube in me against my will. Needless to say I didn't go to UVA. But hey, more power to them.

@SkipD - I really fail to understand all the childish Union bashing. Sounds to me that you aren't that familiar with what many unions can and do do to help keep costs down for businesses. No doubt you just listen to the ranting and raging from the right, because a u nion of works means they can't lie chisel and steal.

I joined my first union at 19, without which I could have not afforded health insurance - you know, something you right wingers think everyone should be personally responsible for - and disability insurance. They as a union, could afford to purchase as a large entity and offer different plans, that the employers themselves could in no way match. Employers didn't have to worry about managing that, which made them happy, so they just agreed to contribute so much per employee, and the employee did to. You know, just like you hear about now.

Frankly, I think it would be far better if all workers in different fields joined unions, and we kept the government out of saying anything about wages. If people as a group agree to work at a set price, then they can. I think deep down, thats what so many businesses are deeply afraid of, because they aren't very well run. Well run businesses always manage to find and compensate good employees. A well run union is the same.

Caesonia- Give me one good reason why ALL workers should unionize.

Chisel and steal? Check the union "leaders"............

Just to be clear, the Chamber is fundamentally opposed to a minimum wage. Period. Hulbert says as much as he's quoted here: "Our Chamber is skeptical about achieving any real positive economic effects from governmental wage-fixing regulations." I don't think there's anything wrong with getting a quote from the Chamber about this topic, but I think it should be noted that they don't oppose a living wage, but any federal floor to pay at all. It's a bit like asking Mahmoud Ahmadinejad what he thinks about a particular new Israeli settlement—you know what he's going to say, because he's opposed to the whole affair. :)

were are the subjects of this protest when you need them............to speak out?

Waldo - if we didn't quote anyone in articles because we know what they're going to say, I imagine we wouldn't have any quotes in articles.

Toss out any common topic and I'll wager that we all know what any pundit, from Paul Krugman to Charles Krauthammer, is going to say about it.

@SkipD, the protesters know what's best for the subjects of the protest so they do not need to be there. According to some they are either at their five other jobs or taking care of their brood of children.

The headline should have said "Hunger strike ends with eating"

Cville Eye- I don't think there are any contract workers who are fighting for this........it's nothing more than a professors project

choppedliver- "priceless"

@Caesonia, is that company still in business? Or has it been propped up by the taxpayer?
Yes, I think you should be responsible for your own health insurance.
@ HooOwnstheChamber..you sure do have a fairy tale idea of business. Yes, there are a few like you described, but most small business owners clean their own houses, have good and bad years, and work countless hours to eek out a profit. A labor war is one more thing they can do without. Government regulation, law suits, the weather, gas prices, injuries, protesters, the competition...rising cost of materials, the friggin IRS...have you ever had to spend countless hours with the IRS trying to find out where they applied last months withholding deposit you made while they add hundreds daily in penalties?? You labor people and Johnny punch clocks are clueless. If those janitors up there are unhappy, they should learn another trade that pays more.

@SkipD, I think you're right, I was trying to be facetious. This protest is actually in a vacuum since it does not recognize the current economic conditions that obviously have not affected them or their families. Of course the professors feel their future is secure. How many people do they pay $13/hr to baby sit, cut grass, or clean their houses? Do they insist that their contractors pay their workers and subcontractors' workers $13/hr to remodel their homes. How much does their garages pay all of their workers, do they know? Do they only shop in stores or eat in restaurants that pay their workers $13/hr? At a two hour dinner they tip $13/hr? Do they refuse to go to a hospital that does not pay all of its workers $13/hr? Why are they trying to set a standard for UVA that they have not set for themselves?

Cville Eye- I thought so, but couldn't be sure................without insulting you.