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:
- Collect postcard signatures to President Raines, or invite friends to sign our electronic petition to the President. If you are would like a stack of postcards to distribute, please contact me.
- Contact your legislators and urge them to adopt a fair pay raise that makes a real impact on low-wage workers' pay. As the legislative session begins in February, we'll keep you posted on actions you can take. The best way to keep up with these is to sign up for WIN's email action list.
- Make a donation to Workers Interfaith Network to help fund the living wage campaign.
- If you are a student at the University of Memphis, get involved in the Progressive Student Alliance.
- If you're a staff or faculty member at the University, join the United Campus Workers.