Hopkins students stage sit-in over workers' pay

`Poverty wages' protest moves to Garland Hall

February 29, 2000|By Nora Koch | Nora Koch,SUN STAFF

Nearly a week after Johns Hopkins University students began camping in a wooden shanty to protest low wages for university laborers, the demonstration moved inside the main administration building yesterday to stage a sit-in.

About 25 students protested with posters, fliers and chants in the lobby of Garland Hall starting around noon. Students chained themselves with bicycle locks to the banister of the stairs leading to the president's office while other students sat in groups of three, chained together at the neck.

"We are presenting the administration with a moral imperative that it is immoral to pay workers poverty wages," said David Snyder, 23, a second-year graduate student and a member of the Student Labor Action Committee.

The protesters, mostly students and faculty, vowed not to move until administrators raise minimum staff wages to Baltimore's standard of $7.90 an hour. The federal minimum wage is $5.15 an hour.

School officials defended their wage scales, but said they had no plans to remove protesters unless they become disruptive, said university spokesman Dennis O'Shea.

Last year, Hopkins officials announced that by July 2002 the minimum wage for all non-subcontract employees at the university and medical institutions would be raised to $7.75 an hour. Salaries for career university employees, who are generally full-time workers, start at $7.88 an hour plus benefits, said O'Shea.

"It's clear that we are making a good-faith effort to get all Hopkins direct and contract employees to a higher standard of living," O'Shea said.

Last Tuesday in front of the campus library, Snyder's group built a 6-foot-tall wooden shanty, which they've been occupying 24 hours a day. The group sponsored a rally Thursday, during which about 250 protesters tried to enter Garland Hall and scuffled with security guards on the Homewood campus.

By 5 p.m. yesterday, campus security had locked the building, but allowed protesters to stay. O'Shea said the university is willing to talk with the protesters, but will not discuss staff salaries with students.

The protesters plan a candlelight vigil at 6 p.m. tomorrow at Garland Hall. Supporter and City Councilman Norman A. Handy Sr. is expected to speak.

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