Hunger Strike for Justice - Day 1
Public teach-in - 1:00-1:45pm on Tuesday, September 18, 2007.
Washington Avenue pedestrian bridge, in front of the Weisman Art
Today at a noon press conference in front of Morrill Hall at the
University of Minnesota, eleven University of Minnesota students
declared that they are hunger striking to support the clerical,
technical, and healthcare AFSCME workers who have been striking for a
fair contract for thirteen days. A faculty member and a staff member
are also joining the hunger strike to show their solidarity with the
students and the workers. Professor Richa Nagar, who is hunger
striking, said, "A hunger strike is not about sacrificing oneself; it
is essentially about bringing attention to an injustice by shaming
those who propagate it. The idea is that anyone who is human has the
capacity to feel ashamed, and a hunger strike is a call to that
person to show his or her humanity by correcting the wrong."
Lauren Siegel, an undergraduate, read part of the group's collective
statement: "Our hunger strike is intended to draw attention to the
workers' struggle. Currently the administration has failed to offer
a contract that keeps up with inflation, despite the fact that the
legislature explicitly allocated money for that purpose." She
continued, "To have justice in our community would mean that nobody
would go hungry. However, according to a recent survey, 25% of
AFSCME workers have trouble feeding their families. We are making a
conscientious choice to hunger strike, just as the Bruininks
administration has made a choice to deny the workers a fair
contract. They could choose otherwise. They could choose to give
themselves lower salaries and give that money to the workers."
Humphrey Institute graduate student and hunger striker, Dani
Indovino, talked about why the students care about the workers'
struggle. "We are not speaking for the workers. Our hunger strike
is a student-initiated and student-led action." She elaborated, "we
are outraged that Bruininks and his administration have let the ideal
of quality education take second-stage to efficiency and
profitability. For this university to create the best learning
environment for us students, the whole university community must be
treated with respect and fairness."
Another hunger striker, a political science graduate student, Susan
Kang, explained why they have chosen the tactic of a hunger strike.
"We have tried every possible way of communicating our demand that
President Bruininks and his administration offer a contract which
keeps up with the cost of living. Yet, they refuse to listen to us.
In opposition to the administration's monopoly over on-campus media,
we hope that our protest will serve as a platform for engaging in
dialogue with students about the union's position."
The hunger strikers welcome their fellow students, community members,
and the press to come and talk with them about the strike and their
vision for a future of the university in which all workers are
treated fairly. They will hold "office hours" between 9:30am and 6pm
everyday, in front of Morrill Hall. All are invited to attend a
public teach-in, tomorrow, Tuesday, September 18th, 1:00-1:45pm.
Professor Ajay Skaria will speak about Gandhi's hunger strikes, and
Professor Ron Greene will talk about "Collective Bargaining for a