Thursday, January 27, 2011

Vigil Shows Growing Momentum for Living Wage at University of Memphis

    "If God was here, how would we act?" Dr. Ande Johnson asked the crowd of 60 University workers, students, and community members gathered for the living wage vigil on January 22nd. Dr. Johnson reminded us that while the world tends to think there's not enough for everyone, we worship a God of abundance. "I want to pray for our eyes to be opened, so that when we get these arguments like 'there's not money in the budget for a living wage,' or 'you should just be glad to have a job,' we can see that's there's already enough there for a living wage."

   Last week's vigil was the second major action in the University of Memphis living wage campaign, following up on a successful speak out in October. Because of the action and generosity of members like you, Workers Interfaith Network is able to join with University of Memphis workers and students in this new living wage campaign.

   All staff and faculty at the University have gone without pay raises for more than three years, but it's been especially tough on workers who are paid poverty wages. Custodial worker Emma Davis says she's had to rely on help from family members to make ends meet. Thelma Rimmer, also a custodial worker, wiped tears from her face as she shared that she can't even afford to live without a roommate at the age of 57 because she's only paid $8 an hour. Ms. Rimmer described co-workers who've worked at the University for more than a decade, but still have to ride the bus to work because they can't afford a car.

   Both workers also spoke of the fear that keeps many of their co-workers from speaking out. "I'm asking you all to do whatever you can to just be with us," Ms. Rimmer said. Reflecting on the fear of some of her co-workers, she added, "God gave me this freedom to stand up here today. I have this freedom of speech to stand here, and I'm not going to be scared."

   Support from other staff and faculty, students, and community members like you is critical to the success of the living wage campaign. And the next few months have great potential to bring workers closer to a living wage, if you and I push the Tennessee legislature to make sure workers receive a fair raise. We'll also be pressing University of Memphis President Shirley Raines to make a plan for implementing a living wage on campus.

    Here are some ways you can help:

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