This spring, more than 25 Georgetown University students declared that they would not eat until the university administration agreed to give its support staff a living wage. The nine-day strike followed years of pressure from the Living Wage Coalition, a student group founded in 2001 several months after a similar organization at Harvard succeeded in raising the minimum wage for their campus employees.
Armed with research showing that Georgetown workers earned well below what is considered a living wage for Washington, D.C., the Living Wage Coalition thoughtfully and strategically organized students and faculty, negotiated with administration officials, hosted weekly worker appreciation breakfasts, and built relationships with D.C. labor unions and advocacy groups.
The hunger strike coincided with Holy Week, which marks the end of Lent, a season of reflection and sacrifice. Strikers reminded university officials of Georgetowns roots in the Jesuit tradition and its commitment, as it says in the universitys mission statement, to "live generously in service to others." When administration officials said they didnt have the money to raise wages, students reminded them that Georgetown had raised $15 million for a boathouse. Was a boathouse more important than people? Student Gladys Cisneros pointed out that university President John J. DeGioia may teach an ethics and global poverty class, but "when it comes to them [the administration] actually changing something, they dont want to do it."