Hopkins sit-in ends

Doug Henwood dhenwood at panix.com
Fri Mar 17 06:27:54 PST 2000

Chronicle of Higher Education - web daily - March 17, 2000

Johns Hopkins Students End Sit-In Over Campus Workers' Rights


A student sit-in at the Johns Hopkins University ended Thursday, after lasting for more than two weeks, when the university agreed to accelerate its schedule for pay increases for its support staff.

Members of the Student-Labor Action Committee, which supports workers'-rights issues, demanded that Hopkins raise wages among support-staff employees like parking-lot attendants and maintenance workers. The students had occupied the lobby of an administration building since February 28. Although the university said in its agreement with the protesters that it would accelerate its pay schedule, the accord did not contain details of either the schedule or the pay increases.

Under the agreement, the university and the protesters also said they would jointly form a committee to advise Johns Hopkins officials on issues of poverty and workers' rights.

The university's concessions initially seemed somewhat amorphous, said David R. Snyder, a graduate student in political science and a member of the group. "We were ready to reject that document on the grounds that it didn't offer much," he said. "But, after meeting with them, they made us believe that they were ready to sit down in the next few weeks and hammer out some significant wage increases among their workers by the end of the semester."

The agreement flatly rejected the protesters' demand that the university join the Worker Rights Consortium, an organization that monitors the use of sweatshop labor. And it did not deal with the protesters' concerns about charges of union-busting and labor abuses at a laundry service used by the university.

The agreement also barred the protesters from staging any more sit-ins inside university buildings. Mr. Snyder said the group would still hold rallies outside.

"There are many other tactics that we could pursue," he said. "This doesn't hamstring us in any way."

Dennis R. O'Shea, a spokesman for Hopkins, would not detail the university's goals for the wage increases, saying simply, "We're going to put the analysis of this on the fast track." He said the protest and the issues it raised had not tarnished the university's image.

"I think it caused some inconvenience for the undergraduate admissions office," which had to reroute campus tours around the sit-in. "It was a hardship, but I don't think there has been any permanent damage."

More information about the lbo-talk mailing list