Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Vigil for a living wage: Asking our legislators to do their part

At a forum on a living wage for University of Memphis workers held in October, Thelma Rimmer and Emma Davis, who are members of the United Campus Workers, shared how difficult it is to provide for their families on $8 an hour.
Vigil for a living wage:
Asking our legislators to do their part
Saturday, January 22nd at 1:00 p.m.
Wesley Foundation at the University of Memphis
3625 Midland Ave.
(see parking info at the end of this post)
This is an indoor vigil, so don't worry about bad weather!

    At the living wage forum held at the University in October, members of the United Campus Workers union shared how they have to juggle bills every month. University employees have faced wage freezes for the past three years, and this year the cost of family health insurance premiums that employees pay jumped 32 percent.

   While this is a difficult situation for any University staff or faculty member, for workers who make around $8 an hour, it's a crisis situation. President Raines and the rest of the administration at University of Memphis must make a living wage a priority as they make budgets.

   But it's not just the University administration that has an obligation to act for a living wage. The Tennessee Legislature also has a big impact on the wages that higher education workers earn. At our January 22nd vigil, we will be praying for the upcoming legislative session. State legislators will also be asked to share their plans to take action for a living wage.

We will urge our legislators from Shelby County to act for a living wage, especially by:

1) Enacting equitable pay raises for higher education employees. Workers' pay has been frozen for three years now. Any pay raises that the legislature passes should be done in a way that lessens poverty pay, and not in ways that grow pay inequality between the highest and lowest paid workers. Legislators should pass equal dollar pay raises instead of percentage raises.

.   What's the difference between these two types of raises, and why does it matter? Let's say the legislature voted to give all higher education employees a 3 percent raise. If you make $15,600 a year, as a number of janitorial workers do, your raise will only be $468. But if you are administrator who makes $100,000 a year, your raise will be $3,000. The gap between the lowest and highest paid employees will only continue to grow.

   An equal dollar raise (for example a $1,000 raise for all employees) makes the biggest difference to workers who are struggling to get by, and it keeps the pay gap from growing even bigger than it already is.

2) Rejecting any legislation that would overturn living wage and prevailing wage laws that Memphis and Shelby County have already passed. Last year, Tennessee House members narrowly rejected anti-living wage legislation. We expect that certain anti-worker legislators will introduce the legislation again this year. If passed, it would undo years of hard work that you did to get fair wages for workers on city and county contracts. Workers on these contracts could see steep pay cuts if the legislature bans local living wage laws.

For the January 22nd vigil to be a success, we need you! Please join us at 1:00 p.m. at the Wesley Foundation for this indoor prayer vigil.

There is limited parking behind the Wesley Foundation. St. Luke's United Methodist Church, which is located at 480 S. Highland, just two blocks west of the Wesley Foundation, has plentiful parking that you can use that day.

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