Campus Living Wage Project

Interviews

Harvard University
Elaine Bernard
Dan Dimaggio
Madeleine Elfenbein
Lawrence Katz
Roona Ray & Amy Offner

Brown University
Peter Asen
Matthew Jerzyk (Jobs for Justice)
Nick Rutter
Anissa Weinraub

Swarthmore College
Sam Blair
Kae Kalwaic

Economic Policy Institute
Jared Bernstein

ACORN
Jen Kern

Stanford University
Anna Mumford [to come]

Colorado College
Kai Stinchombe [to come]

Interested in being interviewed?

Page: Interview

Anissa Weinraub
Student Activist, Brown University

Interview Questions:
What are the effects of the Living Wage campaign in Providence?
What is the best role of students in the living wage campaigns?
What advice do you have to students beginning other campaigns?

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What are the effects you see of the Living Wage campaign in Providence, RI?

In Providence, initially, the wage itself will effect a pay-raise for under one thousand people. But ideologically or philosophically, that can mean a lot as a catalyst. I think most people that are part of the campaign know this. It is a continuation of something the work teacher aides started years ago, who were mostly women of color (a lot of Latina women). It has gotten a lot--a lot--of people throughout the city, throughout different communities to communicate with one another. People know the steel workers are on strike from Providence Gas, or that thirty people are out of money because thirty Latina immigrants lost their jobs at the fishing docks.

People are becoming very connected. People who wouldn’t even know who their city counselor was are now coming out together to call their city counselor, to come down to city hall, to make big posters, to talk with their neighbors, to talk with people who aren’t their neighbors, to talk to people who live across town and they would never have seen. So I feel like it is propelling something, even if it’s just an increase to $10.19 (which is nothing to laugh about.)

What do you think should be the role of students working on city or campus campaigns?

As students, we’re not trying to speak for anybody. We’re trying to go and talk to constituents of the city counselor so that they can be more informed and can tell their elected officials to vote for this. We’re not here to speak for any worker at all, in my opinion—because if we are, then that’s really disgusting. Which is why, obviously, we’re not in any place at all on this campus to have a Living Wage on campus or have that kind of campaign.

We don’t have enough contacts. We don’t have any sense that this is a fight that the various unions on campus want to do. Which is why the Student Labor Alliance, in years past, did a lot of Code of Ethics work for temporary workers, and did a lot of administrative or policy oriented stuff. Which is also the reason that it was seen as a very liberal—meaning bad liberal. Liberal, clean-cut kids talking to administrators doing policy. So it wasn’t seen as an activist group: it was just like boys in ties. There’s nothing wrong with the public policy approach, but just be very honest about what you as a group, or you as an individual, are.

What suggestions do you have for other students working on Living Wage campaigns?

I think that activists don’t quite know what a coalition is and think that its really just the same activist people getting together under another name--but that's not what it’s about. It’s really about delegates from different organizations coming together to build a coalition that they then take back to their separate organizations. It’s not “Hey, do you guys want to come to our thing?” Rather, it’s “How do we want to create this together because we all have an interest in getting this thing passed?”

If you are going to do a coalition for the living wage or stop police brutality on your campus, it's important you don’t just get folks out because they want "to be a part of things." You get folks out because everyone’s going to be committed in a certain way. While you have your own take on it and perspective on it because of the group you’re coming from, you’re all going to be committed to it. Coalition building is really important. People might want to look at Organizing for Social Change: Midwest Academy Manual for Activists, or just the chapter on coalition building.

In the city campaign, it is not or nor should it be about us. We are here to support in any way, to do any kind of leg-work or any other sort of work in this ward (Rita William’s ward, the local city councilwoman) to get folks on the side of the living wage. You do the foot work and you do it well, and be committed. Don’t flake out, because this is really important.

Living Wage Links: ACORN / Harvard PSLM / Economic Policy Institute / Jobs for Justice / United Students Against Sweatshops / LabourStart / PERI / United for a Fair Economy

Last Updated 12.18.04
Research and design by Adam Stone
astone(at)stanford.edu
Feedback welcome
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This research project was generously funded by the Haas Center for Public Service at Stanford University, and supported through the efforts of Kent Koth, Renato Rosaldo, my family, and many friends and kind strangers.