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Memphis, TN: Groups to Continue Protests for Living Wage for UM employees
The Daily Helmsman
Kyle LaCroix

April 8, 2011
View the Original Article

During a rally protesting University of Memphis employee wages, a small group of protesters will deliver over 1,000 postcards from students, campus workers and community members to Shirley Raines' office today.

The protest, sponsored by the Progressive Student Alliance, Workers Interfaith Network and United Campus Workers, will take place outside of the University Center at 11:30 a.m.

"We are pushing for a living wage for U of M workers," said Kyle Kordmeier, WIN administrator. "They are paid $8 an hour and aren't even given free parking. They can be forced to park as much as two blocks away."

He said people who work a 40-hour week should be able to afford to live, and "that's why we want them to be paid the living wage of $11.62."

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam recently proposed a 1.6 percent pay raise for all U of M employees in the 2012 state budget.

U of M President Shirley Raines said in an email to the student body Wednesday that she was pleased The University has avoided wholesale layoffs, despite difficult economic times, and that, "salary increases remain our top priority while continuing to keep people employed."

Tom Smith, organizer for UCW, said an equal-dollar raise would be more helpful for those with lower wages.

"It would be better for the whole campus if the hundreds who make less and, in some cases, are in poverty be brought closer to the living wage," Smith said.

Today's demonstration will begin with a prayer, followed by community leaders, staff, faculty and students speaking about why they feel the living wage issue is important, according to Smith.

"I hope that it shows Dr. Raines the depth of the community and campus support for the living wage and how incredibly important it is that she shows leadership in leading the way to paying all faculty a living wage," Smith said. "Everyone on campus deserves a living wage."

Smith said he believes students care about this issue because many feel their tuition is being misused.

"I hear a lot of students confused that they couldn't cut spending on something else to help raise the wages of employees," he said. "I think it's important that we don't get tricked into the narrative that the only way these workers could get paid more is if more tuition is paid. The problem is with where the money is going."

Nick Orloff, member of PSA, said today's rally is meant to show the administration that broad support exists for imposing a living wage and that students' money could be used more effectively.

"The money right now is, we feel, being squandered in high salaries in athletics or administration," he said. "A lot of the staff (members who go) unseen do a really good job, and we have a moral imperative to pay them livable wages for their hard work."