Virginia safety ends hunger strike after 8 days

Virginia Cavalier's safety Joseph Williams in Living Wage shirt

Virginia Cavaliers safety, Joseph Williams, has ended his hunger strike after eight days.

The Washington Post reports that Williams, a Political and Social Thought major (Which I have never heard of, but is apparently very prestigious. UVA Link), is part of the Living Wage Campaign, created to bring awareness to the fact that UVA’s service-sector employees only make a measly $7.25 an hour, while six of the top ten employees in the state are on the administration of the university.

Here is what he wrote back in an essay about why he is a participant in the group.

Our University seeks to distinguish itself as a caring community and prides itself on traditions of honor and student self-governance. However, in our “caring community,” hundreds of contract employees may make as little as $7.25/hour while six out of the top ten highest paid state employees in Virginia hold administrative positions at the University. Many employees, mostly women and African Americans, do not receive enough pay for their basic necessities to exist in Charlottesville, where the cost of living is nearly 10% higher than the national average. This extreme inequality has disturbed and disillusioned students for decades, many of whom have tried to grapple with issues of race, class, and poverty in and out of the classroom.

Williams told the Washington Post, “It felt good. I got full a lot quicker. I ate really fast. I guess I was just really excited to be eating again. I was kind of queasy a little bit for a while, but I got over it.”

His first meal in eight days was miso soup and sushi.

Williams ended his strike, not because his coaches were concerned about his commitment to the team, but because he was concerned about being at full strength and mental capacity for an upcoming trip to Belize.

“They said I had an obligation to my team and I wasn’t necessarily fulfilling that,” Williams told the Washington Post. “They also expressed some disappointment in my involvement to a certain level. I really want to be mentally and physically prepared when I leave the country because I’m going to be responsible for 10 other people,” Williams told the Post. “I really wanted to be back into the swing of eating and getting nourishment in my body before I left the country.”

Virginia Safety Joseph Williams

Link to Williams’ essay


  • Dave

    'Political and Social Thought' is one of the most prestigious major programs at the University of Virginia.

    • Michael

      Thanks for the response Dave. I actually looked it up after the post went up. I have updated the post.

  • SS

    Sounds like an "occupy Wall Street" major to me! LOL!

  • David HoosFan

    IF….big IF….he makes big money as pro sports, I am sure his stance will change. Another Obama elitist leftist drinking the KoolAid. If this issue is so important, why isn't he forfeiting his scholarship money and giving to the occupy panhandlers. LOL. …and to be a true kool aid drinking kook, make him house 10 illegals and pay for them. Tell me how that hopey changey thing will do for you then….LOL. Looser. …someone got hungry, huh?

    • robbaserocks

      The reason he isn't doing that is because that is what YOU would do with your scholarship money. In the future, don't judge other people's commitment to improving society. Just do something yourself.

  • Rob

    If I were a UVA alumni I would want that young man released from his scholarship. Easy for him to use his paid for college education as a political forum. If I were the coach, I would kick him off the team in a heart beat.

    • Jordan

      So scholarship money to a university that was founded on the principle of intellectual freedom first and foremost should only be offered if the student keeps quiet and shuts up? Gotcha. Kind of defeats the actual purpose of going to college, but whatever. Sounds like somebody doesn't want their athletes getting all "uppity" to me.

      The notion that students on scholarship–yes, even athletic scholarship–should leave their brains at the door is absurd. By that logic, only kids whose parents have money also have the freedom to be politically active. Your comment betrays an underlying discomfort with the stance he's taking, not with activism itself, so, sorry, but tough. Williams is a citizen and a student just like anyone else and he has a right to free expression and political activism. Thomas Jefferson would say he not only has the right but the duty as well. Clearly you are indeed not a UVa alum.

    • Well-stated. Truly not an alum… We want our student-athletes to be students and when they try to get involved with non-athletic activities they get attacked and ridiculed. I guess everyone who receives any type of aid should keep their mouth shut. #smh

  • Agdoc

    Taken at face value, his stance is both laudatory and even "noble". However, it's also true that in a capitalist society, workers are always paid according to the value of their labors. Custodial workers make "only" $7.25/hr because–like it or not–there is nothing unique or particularly skilled about their labor. Anyone can do it–including him–and the ready pool of laborers to do it is huge. Expecting highly educated, highly skilled educators to work for relatively similar pay is not only unrealistic, it's silly. And the hypocrisy of his situation has already been pointed out. He's accepting a free ride to a college education on taxpayer money, preparing for a sponsored trip to Belize, and positioned to make huge sums of money if he gets a pro contract. His social conscience may be commendable, but the focus of his outrage is completely misdirected. He's a perfect example of the young activist–very astute about seeing life's inequities, totally unable to craft a rational solution.

    • Jordan

      I totally get your overall point, and I am wont to agree on some counts. But you also say, "it’s also true that in a capitalist society, workers are always paid according to the value of their labors." That is decidedly NOT true. If it were, women wouldn't be making seventy cents on the dollar for the same work. We also would have no need for a minimum wage or labor laws in general. The idea that capitalism is inherently fair and "everything works itself out" is what is truly naive here, not the social activism that follows. In a capitalist society, those that have the power to acquire and hold on to wealth will do so, regardless of it fits according to the value of their labors. Similarly, those that do not have access to wealth likely never will–at least in our current iteration of the "American Dream."

      Like Williams, I am a PSTer from UVa (though older). I paid attention to the Living Wage movement in Charlottesville, though I never became directly involved–in part because of the reasons you highlight, like their methods. It's not that I'm uncomfortable, it's just that I don't think they're particularly effective. Also they tend to disinclude the communities they advocate for, which I think is highly problematic. Still, I do think it's an important idea, perhaps now more than in recent years. The idea that $7.25/hr is the market value of their labor is untrue; if it were the market value, the workers would be able to live off of it, but they can't. They live below the poverty line. That's what the whole concept of a living wage is meant to address. No one is asking for Cadillacs and fois gras. They just want to be able to do a hard day's work and support their families. That's still the *real* American Dream and I'm at a loss as to why so many Americans are so resistant to it.

      You're right, political activism is a sort of luxury (these days) but it is also a necessity and as citizens, Americans, and human beings we should be proud that someone who could so easily skate by with youthful celebrity is taking a stand for what he believes in. He is not a hypocrite; he has been given an opportunity and is doing right by that opportunity by paying it forward. I believe those with privilege have a responsibility to do more. This kid gives me hope.

    • Van

      yes anyone can do it but I'd like to see you do it for a lifetime having to grind out an life on 7.25 and hour. You know we claim to be a christian capitalist society. We go to church on sunday profess the golden rule, do unto our neighbor as we would be treated and believe in the law of god. Then monday through saturday we practice the law of the jungle. Its no wonder we're such a Schiziod nation

  • Nerole

    Those underpaid employees are free to continue their own educations or move to a city with a lower cost-of-living. Why should I lose sleep over it?

    • Jordan

      Ha, yeah! Screw poor people! If they don't like being poor, they should just be less poor! I mean, they are "free" to get a higher education (because higher education is free! It doesn't take money, time, mobility, mental capacity, and possibly childcare) just like they're "free" to move somewhere else (moving is free! It's also easy to get a new job somewhere else, as is uprooting a family! And they should totally have to leave their communities rather than make us uncomfortable with our own systemic inequality!) They should just pull themselves up by their bootstraps and life would be perfect!

      Look, no one expects people like you to "lose sleep" over other people's problems. But it is truly beyond me why people are so damn proud of how little they care for others. It takes a real lack of compassion and some real willful ignorance to go out of your way to tell people who are less fortunate to go scratch. It's not a zero sum game; improving the lives of others won't take away from you. Your attitude is vile and shows the very real disdain so many people have for underprivileged Americans. And you know what? Whatever, do what you want, that's fine. But you don't have to tell poor people you don't care about them; believe me, they already know.