Student Workers, You Have Rights Too: Labor Day at CofC

When you pull up to a drive-thru window at a fast food restaurant, you probably aren’t thinking in terms of what you have in common with the girl sporting a golden-arch uniform that’s handing you that Quarter Pounder with cheese. If you are a waitress at King Street Grill, a Peer Facilitator for the College or maybe even an exotic dancer at The Southern Belle, you may be more closely related to this girl than you think.

During a break-away session, students discuss their role in the CofC and Charleston community (Photo by Courtney Ecker)

During a break-away session, students discuss their role in the CofC and Charleston community (Photo by Courtney Eker)

Employees of any sort have fundamental human’s rights that must be respected, said Hollis France, chair of the CofC Annual Labor Day Celebration Committee. On Labor Day this year, a robust group of students, faculty members, and fast food workers alike came together to celebrate the national holiday and address some of the issues that workers still face today. This year’s focus of the celebration was workers’ rights coinciding with human rights.

As we’ve seen on campus this past year, students are finding a voice for themselves. They’re angry. They’re fighting the decisions that the board is making. They’re protesting in the Cistern. They’re making a difference. But the purpose of this Labor Day meeting was to spark a flame in the underbellies of student employes—because this issue is something to get fired up about.

If you’ve ever questioned your hourly rates on the clock, keep reading.

Cherri Delesline, an employee at Mcdonald’s, was a featured worker on the panel who advocated for labor unions. In her story, she told of unjust treatments from her managers at McDonalds and how she joined a union in order to fight for better working conditions as an employee. Delesline, said, “Everyone should be a part of a union. When I wasn’t, my voice wasn’t being heard.” Currently, Delesline and many other members of the Rise Up for $15 Campaign are protesting to approve a pay raise to $15/hr for all fast food workers. She said, “I’m not the only one that has experienced these things. Being in the union provides people that support me and what I stand for. I’m not fighting alone.”

Photo by Courtney Ecker

Photo by Courtney Eker

These are the kinds of actions that students such as #FightForCofC Organizer Matt Rabon is encouraging student workers to take. Although he doesn’t think the average student at CofC is as vulnerable as the average fast food worker in terms of violations of rights, Rabon said, “$15 dollars would be a huge benefit to CofC students.” Adrian Barry, former SGA senator and #FightForCofC organizer, said, “There’s no mechanism for action…[campus issues] are unfortunately up to the benevolence and self-interest of the legislators and trustees.”

Barry went on to say that the College must find a way to voice opposition and adopt a policy that integrates student opinions into decisions made on campus—such as those of rights given to student employees. Another question that Rabon says CofC student workers have to respond to is about agency—what control do you have as a member of the student body to act on the fundamental rights of students in the workforce? As of now, the answer to that may be “not much.” But that’s why the Labor Day Committee is hopeful. They believe that student workers can and will come together to fight for their inherent rights, and as such be more valued as members of the workforce.

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Courtney Eker is a junior Political Science and Spanish double major, with a minor in Communication. Hailing from Albuquerque, New Mexico (s/o to the 505), Courtney can be found explaining the geographical differences between New and normal Mexico to confused southerners. Courtney finds joy in petting strangers' dogs and talking baby language to strangers' babies on King Street. Courtney fills any possible spare time with her duties of being the Editor in Chief of Cisternyard News, a Chapter Founder/Leader of the not-for-profit organization Nourish International and a Peer Facilitator for Freshman Year Seminar courses. She holds in her heart a warm place for Cambodia, her two dogs Dudley and Joey and sandwiches from Persimmon Cafe.

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