At least 10 University of Minnesota students began an indefinite hunger strike on Monday in support of striking campus workers.
The group, calling themselves “Hunger Strike for Justice,” said a faculty member, staff member and striker will join them in their action, which they said will continue until workers get a fair settlement. They plan a news conference at noon Monday to launch the effort.
“We are frustrated by the inaccessibility of (University President Robert) Bruininks’ administration,” said Isaac Kamola, a hunger striker and a graduate student in political science. “They have closed off all avenues of discussion, they flood our email with propaganda and they are too afraid to debate in a public forum, because their position is so unreasonable.”
Undergraduate hunger striker Sofia Shank, said, “Bruininks doesn’t seem to care about principles of democracy, justice, or equity. We have chosen to embark on a hunger strike that will raise people’s awareness of his lack of accountability to the public.”
Clerical, health care and technical workers represented by AFSCME have been on strike since Sept. 5 in an effort to achieve a fair wage settlement. A union survey in 2005 found that one-quarter of the union members working at the university have difficulties feeding their families and many have taken on second and third jobs.
The Hunger Strike for Justice aims to highlight the growing problem of wage inequality on campus, the students said.
“We want justice for our community and that means nobody in our university should go hungry,” explained Kyle Johnson, an undergraduate in fine arts. “Our hunger strike is meant to highlight a crisis that needs a resolution now: hundreds and hundreds of workers are going home to their families without a paycheck every day this strike drags on.”
Students have vowed to refrain from all solid foods, and will subsist on only juices, water and salt. Weather permitting, the students plan to maintain a public presence on Northrop Mall on the Minneapolis campus. Students and their supporters will continue to go about their daily routine as much as possible, coming together to support each other and contributing to a debate on campus during their off time.
The group encourages all members of the university and surrounding community to join them at the hunger strike site. Like university instructors, the hunger strikers will hold daily “office hours,” from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. During this time, they hope to engage fellow students in education about the issues in the AFSCME strike and answer any questions about the action.
In the evenings, the Hunger Strike for Justice will relocate to University Baptist Church, 1219 University Ave. S.E., Minneapolis, which also serves as the union’s strike headquarters.