University of Memphis announces $15 minimum wage increase

Memphis, Tenn. — The University of Memphis announced this week that it’s raising its base hourly pay for employees.

In a statement to faculty and staff, the university announced the school will raise its minimum wage to $15 an hour.

“Over the past seven years, we have made good progress and promised to do more, but only if it did not require shifting costs to students by raising tuition and related educational expenses,” said President David Rudd in the statement.

Campus volunteers said it comes at a time when families need it the most. Margaret Cook said she’s been on the frontlines fighting for this since 2016 to help families obtain a livable wage.

“A lot of people now don’t have to rely on food stamps, a lot of people won’t have to work two jobs to support their families and pay the light bill and the rent,” said Cook the CWA Vice President of Public Healthcare Education Workers Sector.

Cook said the effort has been in place since 2013. They’ve held on-campus protests and press conferences throughout the years to vocalize the need.

“We sent a big Christmas card to President Rudd with all of the worker’s names on it and it said all we want for Christmas is a livable wage,” Cook said. “We had press conferences. I took on the task of approaching President Rudd at a board meeting and said we really need a livable wage for our workers here.”

In the letter to faculty and staff the university said: “Given the hard work of so many on the campus, we have been able to develop and implement a sustainable financial model, one that will allow them to raise the minimum wage for all of our university employees to $15 per hour beginning June 5, 2021, and do so without shifting the burden to students through tuition increases.”

The University of Memphis said due to the pandemic there’s also a hiring freeze, allowing only critical employment actions to move forward.

“This is a great step for President Rudd,” Cook said. “I’m hoping that he extends this to other people who work on the campus like our food service workers, student and grad student employers, and our vendors. Everyone needs to be able to make a living wage. There’s no reason for someone to have a full-time job and still have to apply for state benefits.”

Cook said county representatives like Tami Sawyer and Mayor Lee Harris played a big part in this fight for it to officially take place. A custodian worker who was unavailable to do an interview said this will make all the difference for her and her family especially during this pandemic.