A delegation of Washington, D.C. college students traveled to New Haven, Conn., on Saturday to lend support to labor protests by striking employees at Yale University.

Clerical, technical and maintenance workers at Yale have been on strike for the past three weeks in an attempt to force the university to yield to demands for higher wages and improved pension plans. They have been working without a contract for the past 18 months.

The Georgetown delegation consisted of two students, but was part of a larger group of Washington-area students who traveled to Yale on an AFL-CIO sponsored bus. Jane Li (SFS ’06), who works for the Georgetown chapter of United Students Against Sweatshops, attributed the low turnout to a scheduling conflict with the SAC fair.

“Because it was SAC fair a lot of out members felt it was important for us to recruit new members so that we could have more momentum behind other activities taking place later in the year,” Li said.

Saturday was a particularly active day for the demonstrators. The rally included 5,000 protesters; 120 were arrested for civil disobedience, including the president of the AFL-CIO, according to the New York Times. According to Li, the Georgetown students marched in the rally, but did not participate in civil disobedience.

The cause of the workers has been taken up by a number of large labor unions. Li said several labor organizations, the largest of which is the AFL-CIO, all played roles in organizing protests.

“I think they [the national labor unions] are using Yale as a springboard for other living-wage campaigns at other universities,” Li said.

USAS worked to bring students from across the country to Yale, Li said.

“The labor unions really wanted us to be represented at Yale to show student support behind the living wage campaign,” she said. “Students need to pressure the administrations of universities because we have a bigger say in the university setting than we have in a global setting – we essentially are customers of the university.”

Li said that students at Georgetown have been closely watching the Yale protests to see what effects they might spawn at Georgetown. Last year, the Georgetown Solidarity Committee published a Living Wage Report demanding that the university offer better wages and benefits for employees.

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