Campus Living Wage Manual
IV. Getting Your
If you're interested in starting a living wage campaign on your campus, you'll need two important things: information and people. Begin by looking around and talking to everyone you can. Look for social justice organizations on campus that would be interested in working on a living wage campaign. Labor solidarity groups, unions, and anti-sweatshop groups may be particularly interested. Once you get a few people interested you can work together to gain more support.
Early on, start to talk with campus workers. Find out what they think about working at your school, what they'd like to change, and whether or not they're in a union. If they seem comfortable with talking about it, ask them politely what they earn. Ask them if they know of other workers who make much less than they do (wages can vary quite a bit). You're trying to both get a feel for what school employees are paid and also to gauge interest in a living wage among those workers who feel underpaid. Get in touch with the leaders of any campus unions. They should be able to give you a lot of information, and they may want to work with you on a campaign.
Remember: The workers are the beneficiaries of a living wage so it is vital to ensure that they are a major part of the process. Never put yourself in a position of negotiating alone on their behalf. It's their decision to make.
You may find that the most underpaid workers on campus are not employed directly by your school, but rather are employed by subcontracting companies that bid for a specific job and provide their own personnel. Make an effort to seek out contract workers and to estimate how much subcontracting your school does.
If you feel that there would be substantial interest among workers in a living wage campaign, the next step is to try to get concrete information about employees, benefits, and wages. First, try looking around on your school's web page. You can often find a lot of information on pay scales and employment policies, though it may be difficult to find actual numbers of employees. Again, subcontractors may not be held to the same pay scales as direct employees.
You can also just try asking your administration (but don't expect much). Call the human resources department and see if they can provide you with any information. If you have a relationship with an administrator, ask him or her to help you get that info. Faculty may also be able to pull a little weight if the administration is not forthcoming. Ask a professor that you know well or that may be interested in the campaign. You may also want to see what you can find via researching articles and website materials of the Chronicle for Higher Education.
The more information you have, the stronger your argument is. You will use this information in flyers, letters, conversations, meetings, press releases, and fact sheets. It will also prepare you to respond to questions and criticisms. People are always more convinced by a knowledgeable argument. Generally:
You want to know how many people on campus earn how much. Once you pick a living wage figure you'll want to be able to say: X many people earn less than a living wage; it would cost Y dollars, which is Z percent of the schools budget, to pay them a living wage.
It also helps to know what other people on campus earn. Ask sympathetic faculty and administrators what they earn. Comparing a $14,000 per year food services job to the chancellor's salary of $250,000 is a great way to make your case. Capitalize on the disparities between administrators', faculty members', and service employees' earnings.
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