About Us: One Community, One Tribe.

The Living Wage Coalition, formed in Fall 2010, is the result of an over 10 year struggle for living wages at William and Mary. The Coalition is a group of students, workers, faculty, administrators, community organizations, faith-based organizations, and greek-life organizations from W&M and the greater Williamsburg community, who have come together to alleviate poverty on our campus. We believe that workers are vital members of our Tribe Family and should receive fair wages that enable them to provide basic needs for themselves and their families. We are not alone in this movement. We stand with students and workers from all over the country who are fighting against similar injustices with United Students Against Sweatshops. Currently, we are working with the University of Virginia and Virginia Commonwealth University to set a precedent in Virginia for paying workers a living wage. When students, workers, and community members come together, we can make real change in our communities and create the type of colleges and universities that allow students and workers to have an active voice on campus. These efforts have proven effective, such as when Harvard University ran a successful Living Wage Campaign in 2001 that won unprecedented wage increases for all of their campus workers. When we stand together, we can ensure that all members of our community are treated with dignity and respect. Living wages are a Tribe Choice.

For over ten years workers at the College of William and Mary have been speaking out about the poverty wages they receive. During the Fall 2010 semester, students and workers formed the Living Wage Coalition, which is now made up of student organizations, professors, community organizations, and faith-based organizations who are committed to fighting for fair wages for all campus workers. Today, many of William and Mary workers must work 2-3 jobs to make ends meet and provide for their families. Many housekeepers who have served the college for over 15 years are making under $11/hr. Barbara, a housekeeper who has worked for the school for 20 years shares,

"I'm 42 years old now... I like the work that I do, but the pay is terrible. I have two kids. One is a junior in high school and wants to go to college. How is that going to happen when my paycheck is $1500 a month? I'm still living at home with my mom. I'm not financially able to live on my own."

Throughout last semester the Living Wage Coalition held numerous events where workers spoke about their experiences working for the college, and informed the campus community and the administration of injustices that exist within our own halls. The coalition met with the administration numerous times to demand a wage that would allow workers to pay their bills and support their families. A "living wage" is meant to reflect the basic needs of a family - according to the Economic Policy Institute's Family Budget Calculator, a living wage for the Hampton Roads Area is $17.62/hr for a family with one parent and one child. Workers are asking for an increased starting wage that would more accurately reflect the realities of living and working with a family in Williamsburg. Although students and workers have met with the administration numerous times and delivered letters and petitions in support of living wages signed by hundreds of students and community members, the school still refuses to address poverty on campus.


The Campaign's 10-year struggle It is a common misconception that poverty wages are a new issue at the College. Ten years ago, workers and students ran a Living Wage Campaign at William and Mary. In March 2001, as a direct result of the campaign, President Sullivan formed the Committee on Employment Opportunity (CEO). The purpose of this committee was to research working conditions and compensation at the College. This committee included professors of economics, business and law, administration from the School of Business, members from the Black Faculty and Staff Forum, and Anna Martin, Vice President for Administration. The report from the committee concluded:

In today's period of fiscal uncertainty, setting priorities is a delicate process. Yet, the evidence in this report strongly indicates that the College's classified and hourly employees, the individuals that underpin the College structure, need to be placed higher on the list of the institution's priorities... Continuing to ask over two-thirds of the College's employees to do more and more with even fewer and fewer resources and rewards is truly putting the College's ability to achieve its mission, specific goals, and vision as presented in William and Mary 2010 in jeopardy.

Despite this stated commitment to College employees, the CEO dissolved in less than three years. Many campus members saw this previous campaign as a success because President Sullivan instituted a 22% increase for the College's lowest paid workers, bringing every worker up to at least $8.50 as a direct result of student and worker pressure. However, many of the workers who had been at the College for 15-20 years were disappointed because this wage increase did not account for their increased experience, time, and dedication to the College. Many workers who had been here for decades were being paid less than those who were newly hired. Although much research was completed by the CEO and multiple meetings were held between workers and administration members to rectify these problems, the administration has failed to address a majority of the recommendations made by this committee. The reality remains today that many of the College's workers who are responsible for the maintenance and continued success of William and Mary do not receive enough money to make ends meet.

The Current Campaign, A Summary from Fall 2010

Students in the Tidewater Labor Support Committee have been supporting workers on our campus for over ten years. At the beginning of the Fall 2010 semester, workers contacted students in TLSC to discuss their poverty level wages and other injustices they face in the workplace. Residence Life housekeepers began to meet regularly and decided that their two most pressing issues were their wages and the numerous vacancies in housekeeping. Although workers saw filling the vacancies as an immediate short-term goal, they were clear that they wanted to spearhead another Living Wage Campaign. A delegation of over 25 workers and students delivered a letter to Allison Wildridge, Associate Director of Residence Life, outlining their demands and asked Ms. Wildridge to take immediate steps to alleviate these issues. When Ms. Wildridge refused to address the workers' concerns, the group sent a similar delegation to Vice President of Administration Anna Martin. This event marked the campaign's first big victory. After the second delegation, the administration immediately hired temporary workers, and began interviewing permanent housekeepers within days. Despite this victory, the administration still refused to address the issue of wages, which compelled workers and students to approach President Reveley. Over 100 people attended the delegation to President Reveley where workers presented him with their demands and asked that he take immediate steps towards implementing a living wage. President Reveley spoke to the crowd but would not address workers' wages.

The Living Wage Coalition was then formed as an independent group representing a diverse population of students from many different organizations who were all committed to addressing this problem on campus. The coalition held many actions including a Worker Speak Out Panel, a Day of Worker Stories, and a Living Wage Week of Action. The Week of Action culminated in a Rally to Restore Sanity on Campus, at which President Reveley was asked to sign a pledge card in support of living wages. Unfortunately, he refused to do so and students held a Tent City and candlelight vigil in the Wren Courtyard that night. During this time housekeepers from Facilities Management began regular meetings to address the issue of poverty wages. Now, housekeepers from both Residence Life and Facilities Management are organizing together for a living wage with the determination to reclaim their rights as workers and as people despite the intimidation they face from Virginia's anti-organizing Right to Work policies. Although the administration sat down with workers and students in meetings of open dialogue over ten times last semester, the administration still refuses to take meaningful steps towards implementing a living wage. However, the LWC's public actions have gained the campaign visibility and support from all over campus and the larger Williamsburg community. Now that we have William and Mary and Williamsburg's attention, it is time to increase our support base even further to show the administration that we are not giving up on this issue. After a ten-year struggle, we are confident that living wages are a necessary and possible component of William and Mary. Harvard ran a successful Living Wage Campaign in 2001 and Georgetown ran a successful Living Wage Campaign in 2005, during which workers received unprecedented wage increases. As the Committee on Employment Opportunity's statement from above suggests, it seems as if the College is in a perpetual state of financial crisis. We can longer wait for "the right time" to implement a living wage. The right time is now.