U of M employees want to earn 'living wage' determined by the university

U of M employees want to earn 'living wage' determined by the university

(WMC-TV) - The University of Memphis determined a living wage for a Memphis worker must make at least $11.62 per hour.

A group of university workers now want to know why the school is not paying them a living wage.

For Vivian Williams, a custodial worker on the University of Memphis campus, making ends meet has been tough.

"I don't want to have to struggle living from low pay check to low pay check every two weeks," said Williams.

Tom Smith, lead organizer for the United Campus Workers Communications Workers of America, says in a recent meeting University of Memphis administrators acknowledged that $11.62 per hour is the minimum pay required to meet the basic cost of living in Memphis without outside assistance.

But Smith says hundreds of University of Memphis workers are paid what is literally a poverty wage.

"The living wage does not include things like going out to a movie, or building a savings, it's the bare minimum to provide a decent standard of living for a family," said Tom Smith, United Campus Workers.

Many workers are forced to work two or three jobs, or rely on charity or government assistance to get by.

"I work with some employees, their wages are so low they receive food stamps," said Williams.

Wednesday, the group held a Living Wage Teach-In, an awareness raising protest insisting that the university end its poverty wage policy.

Members of the group say they do not understand how the university can refuse to pay their workers a living wage, especially when it was a U of M program that produced the first Memphis area living wage study on what wage is needed to meet the cost of living.

"Higher education has received massive cuts from state. We think funding should be restored. The university is taking strides. We want to encourage them to continue to do so. There have been pay raises in this past two years, but we think they can do more and should do more," said Smith.

So far, university administrators have not responded to Action News 5's request for comment.

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