Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Got questions about the living wage at University of Memphis? Get them answered on October 26th

    A couple of months ago, I had the chance to talk with a University of Memphis worker who I'll call Lisa. Now, whenever I step on to campus, I think about her. About the work that she does. About how invisible she is to most people at the University, even while they depend on her labor to keep the place running.

    Each morning, Lisa arrives at work before 4:00 a.m. She and her co-workers make a long walk in the dark from the least expensive parking at the University to the buildings that they clean. Because Lisa makes minimum wage - $7.25 an hour - she has to choose the cheapest parking even though it means an unsafe, lengthy walk to work.

    Lisa knows what it's like to have more month than she has money. "With the money we make, it's impossible to make a living. I really do not want to work a second job, but as a single parent I have to. You have to juggle bills. It is really hard. Something has to change," Lisa says. Yet, because of the odd work schedule the University has for Lisa, she has not been able to find a second job that she can work while keeping her University job.

    But the point is that she shouldn't have to work more than one full-time job just to meet her most basic expenses. Hearing Lisa's story first hand brought home to me the importance of the new living wage campaign that Workers Interfaith Network and United Campus Workers are launching at the University. 

    I want you to have the opportunity to hear from workers first-hand too, so that you can ask your questions and hear what it's like for them to try to make ends meet on what the University pays them. That's why WIN, United Campus Workers, and the Progressive Student Alliance are sponsoring a community forum about the living wage campaign at the University on Tuesday, October 26th at 6:30 p.m. The forum will feature U. of M. workers who are paid poverty wages, students, and economist Dr. David Ciscel, author of "What is a Living Wage for Memphis: 2010 Edition."

     We'll talk about what conditions are currently like for workers, whether the University can afford a living wage (read my take here), what the current living wage rate is for workers in our city, and what it will take to win an agreement to pay a living wage from the University. If you have questions, this is your chance to get them answered! If you have a topic you want us to cover at the forum, leave it in the comments section, and we'll do our best to address it.

Can you join us at the October 26th forum? Sign up here

    The forum will be held in the University Center's Bluff Room. The UC is located off Walker Ave., just north of J.M. Smith Hall. Parking is available in the garage on Zach Curlin, or in the parking lot on the other side of the railroad tracks on Southern. View a map of the campus with all buildings and parking.

    If you can't make it to the forum, but want to launch the campaign, sign our petition to U. of M. President Shirley Raines. 

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