UMD students block traffic during ‘Fight for 15’ demonstration

A group of University of Maryland students reclined in the street Friday to protest the campus minimum wage, which at $8.25, is currently one dollar higher than the federal minimum wage.

Approximately 20 students sat in a line to block traffic near the university’s entrance for exactly eight minutes and 25 seconds, a duration meant to be symbolic of the $8.25 minimum wage that applies to UMD under state law. Demanding that the rate be increased to $9.55, the minimum wage in Prince George’s County, the protesters clapped and chanted “if we don’t get it, shut it down” while others cheered them on from the sidewalk.

The protest was planned by UMD Student Labor Action Project (UMD SLAP), a student group that “seeks to unravel cycles of poverty by fighting for economic justice in the university and workplace,” per their Facebook page.

In less than ten minutes, campus police issued the protestors two warnings for “unlawful assembly,” which the group later prided themselves on.

“Power doesn’t reside in [UMD President] Wallace Loh, or his administration… it resides in us,” the group tweeted during the rally.

“As far as the civil disobedience goes itself, I think it was successful," UMD SLAP member Chris Bangert-Drowns told The Diamondback. "It showed that folks are willing to take risks and put their body on the line when it comes to fighting against policies."

The junior economics major, who is not enrolled in classes at the moment, introduced a University Senate bill to increase the campus minimum wage earlier this year, but the Student Senate voted against it.

Julie Greene, a UMD history professor, was also among the protesters, standing with the students in the rain using a megaphone to give passersby a brief history of the minimum wage.

“This is part of the larger fight, the Fight for 15,” she declared, calling it “one of the most important fights going on in the United States today.”

UMD SLAP has also launched an online petition demanding higher wages for student workers, which had received all of 24 signatures as Campus Reform went to press.

“Students who work on our campus are paid well below a living wage… This is the product of an inequitable employment structure, in which working students make less than their non-student counterparts even when performing comparable work,” the petition states, adding, “The University could rectify this issue, and take the first step towards providing all campus workers a living wage, by matching its campus minimum wage to that of Prince George's County.”

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