Last week, the USAS Campus Worker Justice Tour brought together students in Atlanta from Agnes Scott, Spelman, and Emory for a weekend of organizing training and strategizing about how to build student and worker power on campus.
By Bex Orton, student at Agnes Scott College
This semester students at Agnes Scott, Spelman, and Emory are campaigning for unemployment benefits for our campus workers. Just last week we attended a USAS organizing training and feel more energized than ever to take on this fight. This week we are tabling in our cafeteria to raise awareness about the missing unemployment, and on October 5th we will be delivering a letter to our President asking that she make a statement in support of workers receiving unemployment benefits. We also are making plans to host a worker appreciation brunch and are brainstorming fun activities and actions for the USAS national week of action in October. Now that we’ve met with students across Atlanta, we plan to coordinate with them to make our movement to support campus workers even stronger!
Over the summer, workers employed at schools in Georgia, including bus drivers, maintenance, and cafeteria staff, were denied the unemployment benefits that they have historically received over summer vacation. Mark Butler, Georgia’s Labor Commissioner, made this decision to deny school employees benefits in April, and many workers didn’t find out about the decision until a few weeks before summer break. This decision has devastating implications for our campus workers, who already make poverty level wages.
On our campus, Agnes Scott outsources the food service to Aramark, which has driven down wages and cut benefits for our workers. Without the unemployment benefits, how will our campus workers afford their rent, pay their bills, and provide for their families? With winter vacation right around the corner, our workers wonder how they will make it through the holiday without their benefits.
Although the federal government has told Mark Butler that it is illegal to deny unemployment to these workers, and demanded that Georgia reimburse workers for their lost benefits, Mark Butler continues to break the law.
At Agnes Scott we are a growing group of incredibly dedicated students that will continue to fight for living wages for our campus workers, even after we win back unemployment benefits. We are part of a nationwide movement for living wages, strong unions, and a higher education system that puts students and workers first. Our mission statement puts it well: we are fighting for “just wages, institutionalized respect, and democratic workplaces on ASC’s campus and within the broader Metro Atlanta community”, and across the country!