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UVA Students, Football Player on Hunger Strike for Workers’ Living Wage

UVA Hunger Strike

More than a dozen students at the University of Virginia are the 11th day of a hunger strike organized by the Living Wage at UVA campaign. The students are demanding a living wage, safer working conditions and better job security for university and university contracted workers, some of whom make just $7.25 an hour.

One of the hunger strikers is Cavalier football player Joseph Williams who, in an essay on why he is taking part in the hunger strike, writes:

On a personal level, this cause is one that hits very close to home. As one of four children supported by a single mother, I have experienced many periods of economic hardship in my life. Growing up, I moved over 30 times—including various stays in homeless shelters, the homes of family friends, and church basements. As a result of these experiences, I know firsthand what the economic struggle is like for many of these underpaid workers.

He says he and the other hunger strikers have, “chosen to take up this cause and give a voice to the many University employees who often cannot speak up for fear of retaliation from the administration.”

But as Dave Zirin writes on The Nation, Williams is taking an unusual stance for a major college athlete.

Rare are the times when an NCAA football player at a Division 1 Bowl Championship Series eligible school stands up for issues related to social justice. The reasons for this silence are manifold. From their legal and organizational powerlessness as "student-athletes," to the annual renewal needed for their scholarships, to just the sheer amount of time players are asked to invest in their teams along with their isolation from the broader campus, silence is often the easiest option.

Click here to read Williams’s essay and here for Zirin’s interview with him.

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