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Student Group Rallies for Higher Wages
The Oklahoma Daily
Chase Cook

October 18, 2010
View the Original Article

An OU student organization launched a campaign today to raise awareness of OU workers making less than the living wage, calculated using Penn State University’s living wage calculator.

Students for a Democratic Society started the Living Wage Campaign to open a dialogue with the university about workers making less than $13 an hour.

“There are people on campus who are employed full-time, but aren’t making a living wage,” said Grant DeLozier, political science and geographic information science junior. “If you are working full-time at an institution or business, you shouldn’t be relying on aid from the government or other types of help to get by.”

This doesn’t directly impact students, but the worker’s being underpaid are the ones doing the dirty jobs, said Michael Howard, Students for a Democratic Society organizer and history and political science senior.

DeLozier and Howard spearheaded the project after learning about Texas A&M’s living wage campaign and attending worker’s senate meetings.

Supporters launched their campaign for living wages at Texas A&M in fall 2003 and petitioned for wage increases until June 21, 2005 when then-president Robert M. Gates — now serving as Secretary of Defense — announced a wage increase from $6.57 an hour to $7.77 an hour, according to the initiative’s website.

Penn State University’s calculation set Norman’s living wage for two adults and two children at $25.83 an hour.

The living wage calculator computes this value as if only one family member was providing for a family of two adults working full-time with two children. Students for a Democratic Society divided the number in half to represent two providers, thus reaching their target goal of $13 an hour.

The living wage number takes into account more factors than those used to determine if someone is living below the poverty threshold.

To determine if someone’s wage is below poverty, the government only takes into consideration a very basic food budget. A living wage factors in food, child care, health insurance, housing, transportation, taxes and other basic necessities like clothing, according to a living wage and job gap study by Penn State’s Tracey L. Farrigan, former doctoral student, and professor Amy K. Glasmeier.

Sean Baker, mechanical engineering junior, said he’s worried an increase in wages could lead to an increase in tuition.

Howard said it may seem like a bad time to ask for increased wages during a harsh economy, but stated that now is the most important time.

“The people we are talking about are the ones with multiple jobs,” Howard said. “They are the last hired and the first fired. They are the ones affected most by the jobless recovery.”

Howard said they aren’t asking to raise the pay for every worker, but are asking to raise the lowest wages so everyone has an opportunity to earn a living wage.

Currently, the group is focused on informing students, faculty and staff about the initiative using the website: livingwage4ou.com. Other events may surface once the site is up and running and communications between the campaign and the university are established, Howard said.