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Oklahoma - OUR VIEW: Questions Surround Wage Hike for Employees
The Oklahoma Daily

October 19, 2010
View the Original Article

Something strange is going on.

After Students for a Democratic Society launched a campaign on Monday raising awareness about OU employees who make below a living wage — and The Daily ran a news story and editorial covering the issue — university spokesman Chris Shilling announced that all full-time employees will not make less than $9 an hour.

While Shilling claims that the statement is “not an official response to the society’s campaign,” it’s highly suspicious it was released the very day the issue was exposed.

And responses from department directors that employ low wage earners, bring up so many questions it’s hard to know where to begin.

Apparently, OU President David Boren began discussing raising wages for full-time employees making less than $9 an hour during the summer, and made the decision to increase the wages for all workers in September, according to a memo from Facilities Management director Brian Ellis. The workers will notice the rise in wages for the pay cycle beginning Oct. 9.

We get a similar story from Housing and Food Services Director Dave Annis. He said low wage earners working for the department received a pay raise in August and noticed the increase in September.

However, when a Daily reporter asked Housing spokeswoman Lauren Royston, she said she wasn’t aware of the change.

Shilling told The Daily that Boren didn’t consult the OU Board of Regents with the decision to increase wages because it didn’t affect employees making more than $60,000.

However, he said the increase to $9 an hour amounts to an extra $500,000 spent on these employees.

Where is this money coming from? And if it won’t affect employees making more than $60,000, will it affect employees making less than this? And if it doesn’t affect anyone, why wasn’t this implemented sooner?

If the university had decided to increase the pay of some full-time workers who don’t make a living wage, why wouldn’t they announce it when the decision was made?

It sounds like pretty good press to us for university administration to announce it actually has compassion for its workers and wants to improve their living conditions by increasing their wages.

We’re glad the administration raised the wage for these workers, but it’s still not the $13 that some employees need to make a living wage.

Living wage refers to the amount of money a full-time employee must make to pay for food, shelter, transportation and health care.

Students for a Democratic Society used Penn State University’s Living Wage Calculator to determine that full-time employees need $13 an hour to support a family of four.

Until university officials answer these questions, be sure to keep an eye on livingwage4ou.com.

The student group has said it plans to release stories of workers not making a living wage in the next few days.