Unions clinch $15 minimum wage at Washington Univ. as tuition climbs

Officials at Washington University in St. Louis announced that campus employees will soon see a $15 hourly minimum wage. 

The raise was pushed by unions and affects roughly 1,200 campus staff members, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

The full extent of the raise will not be seen until 2021. WashU’s minimum wage will first increase to $12.65 an hour in July 2019, then to $13.80 an hour a year later, and finally $15 an hour by July of the following year.

WashU also noted in January that tuition for the 2019-2020 school year will be $54,250, a $1,850 hike from the previous academic year -- this marks a 3.5 percent total increase in tuition, which the school says is consistent with hikes in the previous four years, the lowest increase in around a half-century.

[RELATED: UMD students block traffic during ‘Fight for 15’ demonstration]

”I have made [the minimum wage] decision after an inclusive, thoughtful, and thorough process that involved dialogue with students, university employees, community activists, and St. Louis religious and social justice leaders, as well as a full assessment of the financial and operational implications,” WashU Chancellor Andrew Martin said, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “I have recommended that we take this step because it is the right thing to do.”

The decision comes after protests put on by the Washington University Graduate Workers Union (WUGWU) insisting that the university implement a $15 an hour minimum wage while also providing free childcare options, according to Student Life, an independent newspaper at the school.

“We’re really just kind of inspired to remember that direct action works, in this case. I mean members of our own organization, as well as undergrads, housekeepers...people put in so many hours marching, camping, writing letters, making calls to get this, to get a raise and I think it affects 1,200 employees and that’s just huge,” co-chair of WUGWU’s executive committee Grace Ward stated, according to Student Life. “That’s a whole lot of people who are going to have substantially more money and have life be a little bit easier because of that. We are just really excited about that.”

The raise, however, was not granted to graduate students who work on campus. WashU made an explicit distinction between graduate students and campus employees.

“We feel we still have a lot of work to do. We still really believe that childcare options need to be improved for employees on campus,” Ward continued. “We also believe that both graduate workers and undergraduate student workers need to be included under the employee definition and need to have the minimum wage paid to them also increase.”

[RELATED: UW student workers scoff at 24 percent raise, demand $15/hour]

WashU is not the only university to have raised its minimum wage. Duke University and the University of Virginia have both also raised their minimum wages to $15 an hour in 2019, according to U.S. News.

Duke University will see an increase of 3.9 percent in its tuition for the 2019-2020 academic year -- with a total of $55,880 -- and the University of Virginia, while not raising its own tuition, received an additional $5.52 million of state funding for the upcoming academic year.

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