Eckerd Students Demand Living Wage for Campus Staff

03/04/10 Kate Bradshaw
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The starting wage for housekeeping staff at Eckerd College, which outsources these services to Unicco, a national corporation, is seven-twenty-five an hour. The Coalition for Community Justice, a student organization, held a sit-in today to call on the administration to up that number. Jon Kenney is the coalition president. He says that these wages are unlivable, and that Eckerd should do better.

Kenney says that a living wage for campus staff at a college that charges around thirty thousand dollars a year in tuition is possible.

So how does this tie in with California’s student protestors, who are battling significant tuition increases and shrinking campus budgets?

Eckerd student Sara Sternberg is from Berkley, California, where one of the major campus demonstrations is taking place. She said that students have common ground with workers. She and other student activists said that they found out about the plight of workers by simply reaching out.

Sternberg acknowledged that those may be strong words when it comes to describing the administration’s relationship to students, but said that, when it comes to workers, oppression is a fitting word.

James Annarelli, Eckerd’s Vice President for Student Life, said that the administration encourages community involvement among its students, despite the potentially misconceptions the student demonstrations may attract, given their timing.

Annarelli told WMNF that Eckerd will be raising pay for faculty as well as staff.

Coalition for Community Justice president Jon Kenney says that while the wage increase is a good start, he wants to see the increase happen a little more quickly, and added that he hasn’t seen the wage increase pledge in writing. Members of Eckerd’s small housekeeping staff, some of whom work at least two jobs in order to survive, said they appreciated the students’ support. None were willing to speak on record, however, for fear of retribution.

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