Documentary Triggers Discussion on Student Activism
Published: Friday, October 12, 2012
Updated: Friday, October 12, 2012 02:10
Students discussed Georgetown’s history of on-campus student activism and a 2005 hunger strike that protested worker conditions at the university at an event in Intercultural Center Wednesday night.
The event, which followed a showing of the documentary “Living Wage 101,” was co-sponsored by Movimiento Estudiantil Chican@ de Aztlan de Georgetown — a student organization that examines Latin culture, community and politics — and the Georgetown Solidarity Committee.
The documentary chronicled a three-year campaign at Georgetown that aimed to raise workers’ wages from $6.60 to $14.08 an hour and provide fair working conditions to university employees.
To achieve these goals, students participated in a 10-day hunger strike. The drastic measures resulted in raising workers’ wages and gaining the right to organize.
While the film told the story of the hunger strike, it focused on the importance of justice and emphasized that the campaign’s success depended on the partnership between the employees and students.
Tarshea Smith, a cashier in Leo J. O’Donovan Hall spoke about her experience during the unionization process last year. Workers employed by Aramark Higher Education joined a local chapter of UNITE HERE, a national labor union that encompasses the hotel, airport, food service, laundry and gaming industries.
“The students organized the workers and the workers became worker organizers, so that was when I started organizing my co-workers,” Smith said.
Students and workers also approached the faculty for support during the process, which concluded in February when the contract was signed.
“Some of the professors didn’t know. Some of the professors thought [the university] was because so many of the other departments are unionized,” Smith said. ”The cafeteria was the last place.”