Thursday, March 24, 2005

On Hunger Striking for Others

Apparently, some students at Georgetown University ended a hunger strike after the university decided to meet some of their demands and raised the wages of contract-staff, like janitors and cafeteria workers, and offered the workers benefits like library and shuttle use. How interesting that the students were striking for another group AND that their demands were met.

In a way, I find it rhetorically unsettling that the janitors and cafeteria workers were being spoken for by people other than themselves--kids attending an elite private school, no less. After all, Suffrage, Abolition, and Civil Rights were spoken up for by more than just white men. That is one of the reasons the movements were so powerful; by having the disenfranchised speak for themselves, they refuted the other side’s claim that women, slaves, and African-Americans were somehow not able to enact full citizenship—citizenship that would include public arguing. But, maybe wage issues in financially tense times are just different. Regardless, I think it must have been a very tough road to walk for the students striking. On the one hand, they had a position of power being that they were smart kids paying more than $30,000 at a top-ranked private school. On the other hand, they were smart kids paying lots of money at a good school; one can faintly smell dilettante-ism in the air.

Here at Minnesota, there is work being done to establish a union for graduate students and, naturally, thoughts occasionally turn to the idea of one day striking for higher wages and lower healthcare costs. Would graduate students ever be able to expect or even hope that undergraduates would stop eating for eight days, just for them? I don't think so I'm told that in the past, at other universities, when grad students struck, some undergrads stopped attending class (very noble!) or organized sit-ins; but, I think that might be the most grad students could entertain possibly happening. Perhaps graduate students striking strikes many as being silly to begin with, so adding an undergrad hunger strike would only add to the perceived chaos on the campus. Or, perhaps there is something more fitting and righteous about fighting for janitors and cafeteria workers.


Blogger Patrick said...

Don't organize! It's not particularly useful in a financial sense after you pay union dues, plus, you don't even get the satisfaction of knowing your boss is a cadre taking his orders direct from moscow... just no fun to be red these days...

3/25/2005 12:44 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

You might underestimate the dedication I've see, Patrick. Sure, no more Red Russia, but there are plenty of dedicated Marxists, here in Minnesota, who might just suceed at creating a Revolution! That's not in the pro-union literature, though.

3/25/2005 9:29 PM  

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