The University of South Carolina is underpaying its workers. With the effects of the pandemic in mind, it is crucial that we see an increase to a $15 minimum wage.
Currently, the minimum wage of USC workers is $7.25 an hour. South Carolina doesn't have a state minimum wage law, meaning the federal standard applies to our state's workers. The federal minimum wage has not been changed since 2008, when it was raised from $6.55 an hour. The university has made no effort to go beyond the state minimum wage for its lowest-paid employees.
According to the Economic Policy Institute, if the minimum wage had been adjusted for inflation, it would be over $22 per hour today. Even an hourly wage of $15 would fall short of a “living wage” — which is the salary a person needs to cover their basic expenses. With the current minimum wage, a person would only earn approximately $15,000 a year. A $7.25 minimum wage isn't enough for an individual to live off of, let alone a family.
The United Campus Workers of South Carolina have started a campaign to raise the minimum wage and protect the rights of the workers at USC. Despite USC's workers having to deal with the stress of the pandemic, they still didn’t receive a minimum wage increase.
The UCW is a campus workers' union that advocates for campus workers' rights and interests and tries to build an environment where workers have more justice.
According to Maclane Hull, a graduate student in the History department and a member of the UCW, the organization’s strategy for getting the university to increase the minimum wage is to communicate with other workers on campus, try to meet with the president to discuss the topic and try to increase awareness about why the minimum wage should be increased. The group plans on handing out postcards, canvassing and holding meetings for undergraduate students, administration and campus workers in order to gain support and traction for their campaign.
The UCW is also trying to garner support from members of the Graduate Student Association and Faculty Senate members.
The organization is planning to hold protests and start petitions in support of their movement. Kenny Root, a graduate student member in the English department said, "at the last meeting (the organization) mostly talked about tactics and about building power in order to be able to advocate for the demands that we want, so we have to build a membership, we have to build support among the workers."
At other campuses, United Campus Workers have been successful in their movement to increase the minimum wage to $15. At the University of Kentucky, the organization persuaded the university to increase the hourly wage to $15 by January 2022 through their effective campaigning. The University of Memphis raised its wages to $15 last June and gave a raise to custodians and plant workers who have been maintaining the cleanliness of the campus during the pandemic. Currently, the UCW at University of Colorado - Colorado Springs is fighting for the minimum wage increase through the use of campaigning and petitions.
It is important our campus workers receive the hourly wages that they deserve. They work tirelessly to keep up the maintenance of this campus, and we should join this cause in order to support the campus workers. Even student workers should not be making below a $15 hourly wage; between balancing work and studies, they shouldn’t have to overwork themselves just to support themselves.