University of Memphis commits to a living wage

Memphis, TN --  On January 10,  the University of Memphis released an email to all employees concerning a joint resolution between the Staff and Faculty Senates calling for the minimum pay to be raised to $15/hr. United Campus Workers, Tennessee's only higher education union, applauds the efforts by University of Memphis to publicly address the crisis of low pay for its employees and calls for swift implementation of this needed change.

"Every time I went to President Rudd about raising pay, I was ignored. I know I'm low on the ladder, but I have a voice too. We see the schools doing it, St. Jude and the county raising their pay. Why not us? I'm glad he is finally listening after so many years," said Doris Brooks-Conley, 18-year custodian and union member at University of Memphis. Currently 335 staff members at U of M make less than $15/hr. The minimum pay is $10.60/hour or $20,670/year.

"Many people have been involved over 7 years to get to this point. We are thankful to the Faculty and Staff Senates, especially Staff Senate President Meghan Cullen. We now ask that President Rudd commit to this raise immediately and not incrementally over a few years," said Margaret Cook, current Vice President of the Memphis Chapter of UCW and U of M employee.  

Since 2012, United Campus Workers has been advocating for a living wage that would ensure that full-time employees could make ends meet. In 2014, workers won a huge victory when the University of Memphis raised its base pay to $10.10/hr. At the time, custodian Jean Rimmer, former Vice President of the Memphis Chapter of UCW and 12 year employee of U of M, said, "Many of my coworkers believed this could never happen. We have worked so hard, and this isn't over. But today is a good day, and I see what we can do."

Almost 7 years later, workers like Ms. Jean Rimmer are that much closer to their goal of $15/hr. In those four years, members of United Campus Workers -- including hundreds of faculty, graduate student workers, clerical staff, and facilities workers -- have taken action and pushed for the university to address the growing crisis of economic inequality. In April 2015, UCW partnered with the national Fight for $15 Campaign to hold a city-wide rally on the steps of the university's administration building calling for $15/hr. In December of 2016, a delegation of employees delivered over one-hundred employee-signed holiday cards asking President Rudd for a living wage for campus workers. Finally last year, UCW members worked to formalize resolutions in support of a living wage, which directly led to the passing of the joint resolution by the Faculty and Staff Senate that was mentioned in Dr. Rudd's statement.

“Today is a great day! We know incremental raises for the lowest paid employees will not help them keep up with inflation or keep up with other institutions who are now providing a living wage. UCW has done the math and we know there are immediate solutions to this problem and welcome a conversation with decision-makers to make this happen next budget cycle,” said Ed McDaniel, President of the UCW-CWA local.