Tuesday, July 5, 2022
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UMichigan Students, Faculty Demand Higher Minimum Wage

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Students and faculty members from the University of Michigan (UM) campuses gathered on Sunday to demand a minimum wage increase for temporary and student workers and the introduction of other school labor initiatives to benefit all employees. 

Last year, the university announced that permanent workers would be paid a minimum wage of $15 across the Ann Arbor, Flint, and Dearborn campuses. 

The Young Democratic Socialists of America (YDSA), along with Payment for Placements and One Fair Wage, organized Sunday’s protest to urge the school to extend the increased pay rate to student and part-time employees. 

Among other demands is the introduction of a fieldwork stipend to support School of Social work Students. The protesters also promoted a ballot initiative calling on the state to raise the minimum wage to $15 by 2027. 

“We want (the school) to value all the labor that everyone puts into this university to make it into a great institution,” said YDSA organizer Logan Smith. “On our campus, students drive all the buses, students work in the libraries, students serve the food in the dining hall. So they’re really essential to the functioning of the university.” 

Pay Us Our Worth, Student Workers Demand

Hasna Kazi, the co-vice chair of UM’s Payment for Placements, said the organization continues to fight for social work students to receive fair stipends for the 912 hours of fieldwork they’re required to do. 

Kazi shared that fellow peers usually juggle two or more jobs – on top of their college course load – to make ends meet.

“All of us are fighting for people to get recognized for the work that they do,” said Kazi. “Our organizations could not survive without our labor.”

Noah Streng, one of the protest organizers and president of the university’s chapter of the YDSA, mentioned that the feat was possible judging by former president Mark Schlissel‘s salary. 

“If the university could afford to pay (Schlissel) $927,000 a year, we can easily afford to treat workers with dignity by utilizing a mere sliver of the $17 billion endowment that the university sits on,” said Streng. 

Nationwide Salary Shortage

Sadly, low wages aren’t a problem unique to UM. An increasing number of graduate students across the US have organized strikes to demand better, higher salaries.

Graduate student pay rates remain low despite university endowments experiencing a 31 percent boost last year. 

“The teachers and the instructors of these courses are having a difficult time just getting by. Racking up credit card debt, not being able to repair their car, selling blood plasma, picking up side jobs, doing sex work on the side, just for the purpose of supporting themselves,” said John Klecker, a graduate student at Stony Brook University.

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