Students hold "eulogy" for workers' rights as part of ongoing fight for higher wages
On Friday, Rutgers United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) marched down College Avenue to deliver a "eulogy" for workers’ rights.
The march was part of the "Fight for $15" campaign, a movement that is advocating for the minimum wage in New Jersey to be raised to $15 an hour.
The Fight for $15 campaign is carried out throughout more than 300 cities in the U.S. and 60 countries throughout the world on six different continents, according to its website.
The protesters carried a coffin down the main drag of the College Avenue campus and played instruments to draw attention from bystanders. They also handed out flyers to passersby.
A mock funeral procession was held to symbolize workers’ rights being dead at Rutgers, said Justin Valeroso, a School of Arts and Sciences junior.
“We were just coming up with action ideas in our meetings and we realized we wanted to do something theatrical. Something that'll show off our point but also make it kind of fun and light. We chose a funeral because it symbolized workers' rights being dead,” he said.
Valeroso said he hopes to see more students and workers advocate for higher minimum wages.
“The average Brower employee makes roughly $12,000 a year and the poverty level is $23,000 living in New Jersey, so doing the math, it's obviously an indication that Rutgers isn't doing enough for their workers,” Valeroso said.
Considering Rutgers’ surplus of money in recent years, Valeroso said the University should have the funds to increase minimum wage without increasing tuition.
Akarshna Premanand, a School of Arts and Sciences first-year, said the issue boils down to morality and the fact that people deserve to live comfortably and safely — something difficult to do on the minimum wage at its current level.
The Fight for $15 campaign aims to raise the minimum wage for all campus workers, not just students and adults, she said.
“Can we really be revolutionary without paying workers what they deserve?,” Premanand said.
Mariah Wood, a School of Arts and Sciences junior, said she is concerned about the allocation of school funds going to the wrong places.
“This year we had an $83 million surplus and last year we had a $71 million surplus. That money could be going to families and to workers,” she said.
Students should care about this issue because the Rutgers community leans on its workers, and without them, the community would fall apart, Wood said. The march was the result of people coming together to fight for something that they really believe in.
“If you honestly believe that a new academic building is worth more than somebody being able to feed their kids at night, that's kind of worrisome,” she said.
Manuel Silva-Paulus is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore majoring in journalism and media studies. He is a contributing writer for The Daily Targum.