the Editor of Inside UVA
According to reports in Inside
UVA and other local newspapers, the University asserts that
its recent, salutary decision to implement across-the-board raises
for 180 low-wage housekeepers and groundskeepers was a function
of surveys conducted on the University's behalf that found that
the pay for these positions was below the most recent market comparisons.
economists, historians, as well as some University administrators,
now understand that labor markets are a function of power, who
holds it and who doesn't. In the years before the Civil War the
buying and selling of some Americans offered a graphic illustration
of this reality. For many decades afterwards the disenfranchisement,
in the state of Virginia, of both African-Americans and most poor
whites made for a plentiful supply of cheap labor hereabouts.
And in recent years, at the University and elsewhere, many workers
have feared, on pain of dismissal or demotion, to exercise their
the Labor Action Group and other political entities, such as the
Charlottesville City Council, have taken some small steps to rebalance
these labor market scales. When we successfully won the right
of cafeteria workers like Shelley Burress to wear their $8 pin
at work, when we publicized the shortcomings inherent in the new
pay-for-performance scheme, and when we enlisted the support of
local politicians in our cause, we have begun to make the market
work for those with the least pay and power.
It is a task that is hardly finished.
Professor of History
LAG is holding a rally at Madison Hall at noon Nov. 17.