Fight for $15 rally interrupts Chancellor Wrighton’s Parent & Family Weekend address
Washington University Graduate Workers Union rallied and marched into Chancellor Mark Wrighton’s Parent & Family Weekend address to deliver a petition with approximately 1,300 signatures supporting raised wages for campus workers Oct. 27.
The petition calls for a $15 hourly wage and free childcare for all campus employees and was signed by students, workers and community members.
At 9:30 a.m., a crowd of over 75 people gathered outside the Danforth University Center to listen to speeches given by a graduate worker and a member of the housekeeping staff. The crowd then marched to the Brown School, where Wrighton was speaking to an audience of parents visiting for Parent & Family Weekend.
With signs in hand, the protesters chanted and presented Wrighton with a poster board of the petition signatures. They then proceeded to ask Wrighton if he would “commit today to raising this living standard on campus.”
“Thank you all for coming,” Wrighton said to the protestors. “Parents, welcome to Washington University.”
When the protestors asked for clarification—“Is that a yes?”—Wrighton responded with “no.”
Graduate student Brandon Wilson spoke to the public nature of the rally, stating that Washington University Graduate Workers Union (WUGWU) intends to continue to make visible and “disruptive” demonstrations.
“Our plan is to make each consecutive rally a little more noticeable and a little more disruptive to the administration,” Wilson said. “This one had probably double the amount of people [than the last] and interrupted the chancellor’s routine. He had a chance to say no to us directly—to our faces—which means that we’re prepared to have a more public…and more disruptive rally to follow.”
Undergraduate junior Allie Lindstrom agreed with Wilson, and believes that taking public action is an effective method of reaching University administrators.
“This is a university that cares very much about its image. It cares about making sure that parents, future donors and the St. Louis community thinks it’s doing what the University is supposed to,” Lindstrom said. “This very public demonstration is a way of saying, ‘You are not, and you have to do better.’”
University administration was unavailable for comment.
According to Wilson and Lindstrom, some parents attending the address seemed to support the protestors.
“I can say that a few of them gave us an applause and cheered us on,” Wilson said.
Lindstrom noted that the protest was also well received by those who participated in it.
“It has had some of the most positive response from participants that I’ve ever had from a [demonstration] … Most of [the participants] were grateful to have come because it was such a powerful action,” Lindstrom said. “I didn’t ask any of [the parents] what they thought, but it felt as though there was support in the room.”
WUGWU is in the process of planning their next action in the Fight for $15 movement. According to Wilson, the results of the petition were encouraging to the members of the group.
“I think the number of signatures signifies to me—and signifies to the University—that this issue of a reasonable minimum wage on campus is not only popular, but really necessary to the way students imagine their University,” Wilson said. “This is an issue that students are asking for right now.”