Education

Student activists disrupt board of trustees, call for minimum wage increase

Activists from Rutgers United Students Against Sweatshops (RUSAS). Credits: New Brunswick Today

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - Dozens of students activists interrupted the Rutgers Board of Trustees December 12 meeting as part of their campaign for a campus-wide $15 minimum wage.

Many of them chanted slogans such as “If we don’t get it, shut it down,” and “We want just, and power, and 15 an hour.” Others hel​d​ up signs which ​simply ​read “$15.”

The meeting was shut down just over 14 minutes in, and had a police presence of nearly a dozen officers in anticipation of the protest.

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Many of the students were from the Rutgers chapter of United Students Against Sweatshops​ (RUSAS)​, who have spent the past year campaigning for a campus-wide minimum wage of $15 an hour for all student workers.

The campaign recently became one of the bargaining demand​s​ in the broader contract negotiations underway by several Rutgers faculty unions.

On the ​eve of the Board of Trustees meeting,​ and perhaps to stave off the protest, Rutgers President Robert Barchi announced that the campus minimum wage for all student workers will be raised to $11 an hour​,​ effective January 1, 2018.

But RUSAS members maintained that wasn’t enough, and ​demanded more protests.

“While $11 is a great increase it is still a poverty level raise,” said RUSAS member Mariah Wood. “Workers deserve to pay their rent and feed themselves, instead of having their labor exploited by the university.”

Wood continued, “This wage increase was not given to us, it was fought for tirelessly by students and workers who came together to exercise collective power. And we are going to use that same power to win $15.”

University officials were not immediately able to respond to comment.

While there is a possibility students who took part in the protests could face disciplinary action, whether or not that ends up happening is uncertain, Wood said.

In addition, the Rutgers chapter of USAS, which is a registered student organization, could also face disciplinary action.

The campaign has also come under scrutiny following reports of vandalism in early December, when​ the words “Fight4Fifteen” were reportedly spray-painted on the side of the Asian American Cultural Center.

The phrase “Fight4Fifteen,” is one of several that’s been used by RUSAS as part of ​its ​campaign, ​al​though the group has denied ​its​ involvement with the incident.

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