$15 Minimum Wage Movement sets agenda for coming months

The “Pay Us 15” initiative, founded by junior Barrah Shamoon, continues its effort towards raising student workers’ minimum wage in Spring Term, under the leaderships of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), Sunrise Appleton and Student Liberation Front (SLF).  

As of now, the initiative has set several agendas including approaching the Lawrence University Community Council (LUCC) at the end of this academic year and potentially forming a student worker union at Lawrence University in the next academic year, according to junior Terrance Freeman, the co-chair of SDS. The initiative will be consolidating more plans of action at the end of Spring Term, Freeman said.  

As a recent development on campus, the “Pay Us 15” movement held its first event, a campus demonstration, on April 16 near the Warch Campus Center, in order to raise awareness of this initiative and call for the Lawrence administration to increase student workers’ minimum wage to $15 per hour. They view this increase as a response to students’ financial difficulties, including their tuition fees alongside their academic life.  

Before directly approaching the administration in the next academic year, the initiative will present their concerns to LUCC in the hope of gaining potential support, according to Freeman. Their list of concerns addresses issues including the impact of a low pay rate on the mental well-being of those who come from underprivileged backgrounds, decreased financial aid packages for international students and the disparities between student’s received wage and the cost of tuition, books, clothing, food, transportation and entertainment. 

As part of their efforts, the “Pay Us 15” initiative reached out to the Union of Grinnell Student Dining Workers, an undergraduate student worker union at Grinnell College in Grinnell, Iowa, according to Freeman. The National Labor Relation Board (NLRB) would not recognize an undergraduate student union alone, Freeman said; however, in 2016, the formation of student worker union in Grinnell was approved by NLRB under the agreement of Grinnell Administration.   

According to their official website, the Union of Grinnell Student Dining Workers made a contract with the Grinnell Administration, which raised hourly wage for student workers to $10 per hour and guaranteed experience bonuses, grievance procedure, better food safety training as well as other benefits. 

During the conversation between the two groups, the Union of Grinnell Student Dining Workers offered some suggestions, such as focusing on a specific worker demographic before expanding the campaign, doing mass movement such as distributing fliers and holding demonstrations, as well as waiting for administrative changes in National Labor Relation Board (NLRB) during this summer. Following these suggestions, the initiative will be consolidating specific plans during the summer, according to Freeman. 

The initiative is also hoping that the incoming staff in NLRB will come to recognize undergraduate student workers, Freeman said, which is why the endeavor to form a student labor union will take place next year.  

Alongside with administrative changes, the initiative remains uncertain about how Laurie Carter, the incoming president for Lawrence University, will stand on this movement in the next academic year. However, Freeman stated, it could be possible that Carter, as a new President, will seek to develop a close relationship with the student body and may be willing to support this movement if a considerable portion of student body is advocating for a higher pay.