[EXCLUSIVE] UVA Football Star Joseph Williams Talks Hunger Strike 

[EXCLUSIVE] UVA Football Star Joseph Williams Talks Hunger Strike 

Williams explains what inspired him to stand up for worker's rights

David Leonard

by David Leonard, February 27, 2012

[EXCLUSIVE] UVA Football Star Joseph Williams Talks Hunger Strike 

group of great coaches who are committed to the community but this is something I am very passionate about and they don’t necessarily share my passion.

EBONY: Doesn’t it bring positive attention to see the level of commitment and concern beyond self? Isn’t that a value we should cherish?

JW: I would agree but not everyone feels that way.  Some people wish the campaign would go about this in a more political way, following the rules, but what they fail to consider is we have going at this for 14 years  

EBONY: You wrote that UVA “has the prestige and high moral traditions of other top institutions, levels of inequality exist here today that are reminiscent of Jefferson’s days as a slave-master and plantation owner - with one anonymous employee even referring to the University’s Grounds as ‘the plantation.’”  Can you talk about the symbolic importance of this struggle given that history?

JW: The parallel I was drawing on here was to emphasize how those at the top are exploiting the vast majority of people at the lowest level of our community.  The inequality between these two groups is vast.  Exploited members of our community are not able to speak for themselves for fear of retaliation – getting written up, getting fired.  Obviously this isn’t slavery, but we need to look at the levels of domination, the fear of retaliation, the difficulty to force change, and the continued exploitation, mistreatment, and abuse.  

EBONY: How does race and gender play out within this inequality?

JW: I think it is a major factor.  It is easier to exploit these groups because of a lack of options and lack of political power.  These are marginalized groups already so it is easy to ignore their situation

EBONY: What can others do to help your group and the workers secure just compensation?

JW: That is why we are here.  We are not here for anything else; we are here for the benefit of the workers.  If you are in Charlottesville community, come out to rallies.  If you are not, email or phone the administration to expressed your disappointment, to express your support for living wages (Go here for more information).  There is also a petition at change.org as well

David J. Leonard is Associate Professor in the Department of Critical Culture, Gender and Race Studies at Washington State University, Pullman. He is author of After Artest: Race and the War on Hoop (SUNY Press, spring 2012). 

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