By Aaron Wells, Chattanooga, TN–Members of the United Campus Workers and the Progressive Student Alliance delivered a letter to University administrators and
asked for living wages for all campus employees.
According to the MIT’s Living Wage calculator, a sole provider working full-time to provide for a household of two adults and two children in Hamilton County should earn over $18 per hour.
Jared Story, an administrative assistant with the College of Nursing and a United Campus Workers member, said many employees on college campuses across the state are unable to maintain adequate health care, housing and transportation due to low compensation.
“There are hundreds of workers on this campus and across the state that make less than living wages,” Story said. “Some of them have two or three jobs to support their families, and some are on government assistance. Our state institutions should be paying living wages.”
Story said United Campus Workers members also oppose contracting services to private companies, as some may not offer the same benefits that are received by state employees.
Members of these organizations also emphasized inadequate adjunct faculty pay as a main concern, as many must maintain additional employment in order to get by.
“There are a lot of departments that use adjunct faculty, and that is one way of cutting down on pay,” Dr. Parthasarati Dileepan, professor of management and vice president of the UTC chapter of United Campus Workers said. “The number of adjuncts has increased and at the same time, compensation has remained very low.
They have not seen any raises when everybody else gets a raise.”
Dr. Grady Bogue, interim chancellor, personally received the letter and said he would discuss the issue with members of the University executive council.
“I am drawn to the heart of your message, and I want everyone on this campus to have a better life. So if we are not meeting that, then I want us to do that,” Bogue said.
Danny Freeman, a Chattanooga junior and PSA member, said students are directly affected by inadequate faculty and employee wages.
“Students have a special kind of leverage in the University, and that is because we pay tuition,” Freeman said. “So basically the University is here to serve us, and we are directly affected by living wage issues because their [University employees] working conditions are our learning conditions.”
Freeman also said campus employees should not have to rely on additional financial assistance or be forced to work multiple jobs.
“It’s not right for people who have worked here for multiple years, to have to rely on government assistance and other jobs to live their lives,” Freeman said.
Story said commitment from University officials was critically important to the development of living wage policies, and Bogue told members of the two organizations that he would offer a response after the issue has been discussed with campus leadership.
“The main roadblocks are the willingness of the administration to do the right thing,” Story said. “The state is not broke, it’s a myth that the state is broke. We have the money, we just have to prioritize.”