Protest interrupts Rutgers Board of Trustees assembly
Students did not leave until the meeting was adjourned
Tuesday's Board of Trustees meeting ended abruptly when students refused to leave until University President Robert L. Barchi raised student worker minimum wages to $15 an hour.
The students were part of the largest student group to hold a protest this semester.
Members from United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS), Rutgers Puerto Rican Student Union and Black Lives Matter Rutgers, among other organizations, took to the common space in front of the Douglass Student Center, rallying in solidarity and rehearsing chants before entering the building.
“We work, we sweat, put that 15 on our set,” and “we want justice, and power and 15 an hour,” the protesters said.
Upon entering the meeting, protesters were informed that there would be no tolerance for disruptive behavior. Shortly after, half of the group’s members bypassed the line of police officers which separated them from the center of the room — they did not leave until the meeting was adjourned.
Despite this increase, Avery Elford, media liaison for USAS, said that the group is not satisfied with the increase and feels that $11 is not a living wage. As a result, workers unable to sustain themselves must prioritize paying rent over buying food.
He said, “Well obviously we’re very enthused with everyone who showed up who you know fought for the belief that everybody here does deserve a living wage. I think that we do believe we can win, and this $11 was already proof that we are putting pressure on the administration here and we believe that we are gonna keep it up, we are gonna shut down every meeting until we get what we deserve, which is a $15, living minimum wage.”
USAS initiated the campaign, commonly referred to as the “Fight for 15," last spring as a way to pressure the administration into raising student wages, Elford said.
“Today’s demonstration is suppose to show that we are not backing down, we believe that we’ve got the pressure on,” Elford said. “We’ve made a direct impact on this campaign already. We’ve made ourselves apparent at meetings and other events and Bachi knows that we’re going to hold him accountable …”
Elford said the administration has been consistently trying to stifle their campaign — Barchi has not met with the organization personally to discuss the increases, and the group has had motions denied by Senate to pass a $15 minimum wage.
Danny Taylor, a School of Arts and Sciences senior, said USAS was not going to leave the meeting until it was called to a close.
“The community came out because this is an issue people care about, this is people’s lives, and we are a community at Rutgers and we’re not going just to make trouble,” Taylor said. “We are going to make change. We want a living wage, they brought the police, they told us they were going to throw us out.”