by Kiani Ned
|Protests set up in front of Indus Valley|
Since the beginning of the semester, a group of Barnard and Columbia students have been raising awareness of local issues affecting people in and around the Columbia “bubble.” The Student-Worker Solidarity group, originally titled Students Support Barnard Workers, helped in contract-negotiations with the Barnard administration to help ensure certain health benefits that were in danger of being withdrawn due to the college’s financial issues. When this goal was accomplished, another worthy cause of injustice in our own backyard was brought to the members of this group. Twelve former employees of the Indus Valley restaurant on the corner of West 100th and Broadway are suing the owners and managers of the popular Indian food restaurant for a whopping $500,000, in unpaid wages, stolen tips, and unpaid overtime. In conjunction to these major infractions of federal labor laws, eyewitnesses have observed several cases of physical abuse.
The members of the Student-Worker Solidarity group have risen together to protest the injustices that were and still are continuing to occur just a few blocks away from Columbia University. Since late October on Saturday evenings at 5:30 p.m., the members of Student-Worker Solidarity have met at the gates of Columbia to walk together in a procession to stand in front of the Indus Valley restaurant to protest. I’ve had the pleasure of marching with the group on several occasions. The night begins with a chant in front of the Columbia gates, after which the students march down Broadway until they reach Indus Valley restaurant. On every occasion that I’ve witnessed, the group establishes a very powerful and undeniable presence. The sheer size of the group has grown to about 40 protesters—including workers, students, and members of the community who’ve recently become aware and have been touched by the story of the workers.
The group aims to assist the workers receive justice and compensation from their previous employer, and raise a general awareness about the state of the community that we’ve inherited as a result of our decision to attend college here. According to Jane Brennan (CC’14) “We’re just getting started.” I think she couldn’t be more correct in this statement. The actions of this group and the other activist groups on the campus serve to remind us, as students, of our position in this world in relation to others and to inform us of what we can do to bridge the gap of misunderstanding so prevalent in our society.
Kiani Ned is a first year at Barnard and a staff writer and photographer for The Nine Ways of Knowing.
If you would like to get involved, the Student-Worker Solidarity group can be found on Facebook and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also more regular updates of the group’s actions can be accessed at their Google Group.