$15 Minimum Wage, Coming to a Campus Near You?

 

Earlier this month, the University of Washington announced it is increasing the minimum pay for student workers to $11 an hour, effective April 1, 2015. Since Seattle has to pay its workers a higher wage, it only makes sense that UWT should too. Fortunately, the UWT administration, led by Chancellor Mark A. Pagano, did the right thing by insisting that all student workers get a raise.

For those of us who work on this campus, change has come.

“It’s a very good idea and we made some changes to help our student workers make a decent wage,” Chancellor Pagano stated.

There are approximately 250 student workers here at the Tacoma campus. While being a student is an occupation in and of itself, many students take on the added responsibility of working an on-campus job in order to fund their education. Without these student workers, we wouldn’t have access to many on-campus opportunities, including events hosted and sponsored by Student Involvement.

The true honor and spirit of being a Husky is in the way we support one another. We must understand that many student workers struggle to balance work and academia, and they make a lot of sacrifices in the process. They deserve our appreciation and respect, and financially, they deserve a raise because their hard work deserves a pay off. Thanks to Chancellor Pagano and his administration, they got it.

But the recent $11 an hour raise won’t be the last one. When asked about when student workers’ minimum wage will increase again, Chancellor Pagano stated that there would be dialogue and analytics before such a decision is made.

“The UW Interim President Ana Mari Cauce has discussed with us the possibility to raise student workers’ minimum wages to $15 an hour,” Pagano revealed.

But since the minimum wage is currently $15 an hour in Seattle where the UW’s main campus is located, $15 an hour may not actually reflect the state of the economy here in Tacoma.

“President Cauce doesn’t expect all of the three campuses to raise the minimum wage to $15,” said Chancellor Pagano.

But raising the minimum wage doesn’t just impact UWT, it’s a much larger social issue that extends beyond our campus doors.

There are a lot of businesses located along Pacific Avenue and many of the workers there are actually UWT students. If the UWT were to raise student workers’ minimum wage to $15, those businesses would face undue pressure to increase the wage for their own workers.

“If we did that, employees at Pacific Avenue’s businesses may try to work here at the UWT,” said Pagano. Consistently raising the minimum wage could lessen opportunities for students to work on campus because a tight budget could also mean “reducing the number of positions opened to students,” said Pagano.

This is an issue that is relevant to everyone, regardless of whether they’re a student worker or not. We all must play a part in the decision making process.

“We’ll convene a dialogue with the business owners while ASUWT needs to engage students and ask them what they think of it,” said Pagano, who is going to organize conversations on the minimum wage later this academic year. “Let’s discuss, let’s analyze, and let’s figure it out.”

Photo illustration by Allison Pham

Photo illustration by Allison Pham

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