Workers’ Advocacy lecture touches on labor, wage concerns, revisits successes

By Garrett Largoza, Layout Assistant ||

Last Friday, Nov. 21, F&M’s Workers’ Advocacy Group (WAG) held a discussion on social justice and workers’ rights entitled “Inequality, Power, and Resistance in Our Time” in the Joseph International Center, which was open to all students and faculty.

The talk partially focused on explaining the two phenomena of neoliberalism and globalization, as well as how they affect growing economic inequality in the United States and abroad. In addition, panelists — Rebecca K. Marchiel, visiting professor of history; Leanne Roncolato, assistant professor of economics; and Kate Goodman, representative of the advocacy group 15 Now — discussed ways in which people are resisting these forces in order to forge a more egalitarian world, with hopes that the audience will not only understand what caused the increase in inequality over the past four decades, but also realizing ways in which change can be affected.

In selecting panelists for the event, the WAG first approached Marchiel, whose work focuses on America’s relationship with the finance industry; she agreed to participate, and also recommended Roncolato, whose work focuses on global labor markets.

Lastly, the WAG approached Kate Goodman, a representative of 15 Now, who spoke about her experiences as an activist for higher wages. 15 Now is a nationwide grassroots organization founded by Kshama Sawant, a member of Seattle’s City Council, which advocates for the immediate increase of the minimum wage to $15 per hour by empowering workers and activists to unite.

The idea behind the talk was not only that community members should gain knowledge about inequality, but also feel empowered to act by learning about examples of resistance. The talk, according to the WAG, was intended to help illustrate the importance of the work that students in the WAG have been doing on campus in the context of global events.

In fact, within the past three years, the WAG saw the realization of several initiatives they supported and worked for on campus: the insourcing of both security personnel from Allied Barton Security Services and of custodial staff from Aramark Corporation.

“The talk hits close to home for all of our group members either because they are from countries harshly effected by neoliberalism, from working-class backgrounds, or have been involved in labor or political groups tackling the issue of inequality,” said Jahanzaib Choudhry ’15, co-president of the WAG. “Also, it is something that directly affects the college and the Lancaster community due to the amount of low-wage labor present in both.”

First-year Garrett Largoza is a layout assistant. His email is glargoza@fandm.edu.

 

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