Virginia junior football player Joseph Williams was at the school’s library late Sunday night when he noticed another student fast asleep at one of the tables. A friend mentioned to him that the student was participating in a hunger strike organized by the university’s chapter of the Living Wage Campaign, a group with which Williams previously had been involved.
Williams sent a text message to another friend of his who he figured also was participating in the hunger strike and told her he had eaten his last meal. He too was going to join the hunger strike, which is designed to leverage university decision-makers into improving the pay of the school’s service-sector employees.
“The campaign has been active for the past 14 years, and we’ve been basically ignored for the most part by two separate administrations, countless administrators,” Williams said Friday morning in a telephone interview. “We have widespread support in the community from Charlottesville City Council and everything.
“We felt that it was time to basically escalate and hopefully get some media pressure on them so that they would feel obligated to negotiate and hopefully bring about some of the demands that we have stated.”
Among those demands are increased hourly wages, cost-of-living adjustments on an annual basis, the establishment of an oversight board and safer working conditions. Williams – who graduated from Dominion High in Sterling at age 16 and walked on to the Virginia football team at age 17 – is among the 17 students who say they will not eat again until the group’s demands are met.