living wage by Anthony Hadford

On a sunny spring afternoon this past semester, I noticed a
crowd gathering outside Thomas Jefferson’s famous Rotunda. Curious,
I approached the group and saw “Living Wage” signs and t-shirts,
calling for an increase in the salaries of University of Virginia
employees. While I had heard about this movement I did not fully
understand their demands so I asked a bystander wearing the “living
wage” t-shirt if he could tell me more about why they are

“We want to raise the wage of workers” he replied. This
seemed to be a good cause, why not pay all employees at
least $13 an hour for their work? So I further questioned the young
man, “Where would the University get the funds to increase wages?
Do all of the employees earn $13 for the work the engage in? Is it
possible that the University would lay off workers in order to
adjust for higher wages? ” The student chuckled and replied, “I
really don’t know man, I am just here for the protest.” This is a
common occurrence for a movement that lacks substance: create a
cause centered on a sensitive issue to appeal to the emotions of
supporters, but do not fully educate the supporters about the


Another interesting, yet ironic view of movements such as the
living wage is peacefulness. It is ironic that they claim to engage
in “peaceful protests” and dialogues because they often display
behavior that entirely contradicts this. After I spoke with the
first protester, I wanted to learn more about the living wage
movement so I asked another member of their group about the cause.
He replied similarly as the other young man, so I asked the same
questions. He thought for a moment and then asked me if I support
capitalism. I replied that capitalism may have some flaws but it is
currently the best mechanism for a free economy. He then swore at
me. It is not uncommon for some of these protesters to become upset
and hostile towards those who question their cause. The use of ad
hominem attacks is commonly a symptom of the fear of not knowing
how to respond to an argument of reason.

I learned an important lesson while observing the living wage
movement that day. While many of the groups associated with the
liberal agenda claim to be tolerant and peaceful, they are anything
but peaceful. Where does their anger come from? It stems from the
fear they experience when individuals, such as me, seek to better
understand their view and question if such a stance is beneficial
for society. For movements such as the living wage, discussion is
lethal because it threatens to reveal the weaknesses of their
demands and ultimately lead to the demise of their cause.

Anthony Hadford is a Sarah T. Hermann Intern Scholar at Young
America’s Foundation and is a second year at the University of



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