Attempt to compromise living wage for student workers fails in Senate

After much debate, a second resolution to encourage the University of Alabama to adopt a living wage failed in the Senate of the Student Government Association on Thursday.

This bill is a compromised version of a similar resolution that failed in the Senate last week.

The new resolution did not specify a salary.

The senses. Justin McCleskey and Drew St. Charles, the authors of the resolution, said their hope was to start a dialogue with the AU administration about University employees earning a living wage, not to advocate for a specific price.

McCleskey and St. Charles said it would increase the University’s competitive advantage by attracting more talented students and workers. A higher salary, they said, would mean current students could focus more on their studies and performance.

Supporters said the University’s minimum wage of $7.25 an hour was lower than Tuscaloosa’s Calculated $14.55 Living Wage for a single person without children.

“Students have dispersed to even take on campus work and make a living from it,” McCleskey said.

Senate Secretary Grace Federico said sources of revenue are inconsistent due to COVID-19 related budget cuts affecting many AU divisions. Instead of adopting a resolution immediately, Federico said it would be wiser to “pursue these [minimum wage] conversations with a senior administrator.

Senator Andrew Bregman agreed. He said better pay might be possible with the support of the AU administration.

Senator John Dodd, a supporter of the resolution, said the legislation should not deter university administration from offering better pay.

“If a recommendation [for a livable wage] digresses on this progress, it just shows that our academic leaders are unfit to lead,” Dodd said.

Senator CJ Pearson said a drastic increase in the minimum wage could displace many jobs at the University, making it risky for many workers involved.

“I would argue that these people would much rather have a job than not have a job at all,” Pearson said.

Many supporters of the resolution reminded the senate that the purpose of the resolution was to invite discussion with the AU administration on a higher salary, saying that fears of rushing the University into is carrying out a drastic increase in salaries were baseless.

St. Charles, among other supporters, was frustrated with the SGA when the bill failed.

“[This is what] happens when you have…a student government that is not representative of your student body,” St. Charles said.

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Michael A. Bynum