Chancellor Joe Steinmetz of the University of Arkansas today, July 13, announced the phasing in of a Living Wage for U of A employees, sought for over two years by the union representing its faculty and staff.
In 2018, the Local 965 launched its Living Wage campaign, gathering more than 700 signatures in support of higher wages while supporting the campus food pantry that served food-insecure employees and students.
“This is a long overdue and desperately needed raise for many UA employees,” said Bret Schulte, president of UA-Fayetteville Education Association/Local 965. “We believe this decision shows the power of coming together and magnifying our voices until we are heard.”
Unfortunately, the chancellor’s plan does nothing for the many graduate students on 9-month appointments who are working for poverty level wages.
“The plan only offers a hope of a raise for those few graduate students who are on 12-month appointments and leaves the bulk of our TAs out in the cold at a time when the economy is cratering and teaching opportunities are uncertain,” Schulte said. “We will continue to fight on behalf of our graduate students and for stronger, more equitable and more competitive University of Arkansas.”
The national pay campaign is based on the Living Wage calculation, the least income necessary for a worker to meet their basic needs, higher than a subsistence wage rate and the federal and state minimum wage laws.
The Fayetteville campus would eventually see a minimum salary of $30,000 a year for full-time employees and $15,000 for TAs, who work half time, generally teaching undergraduates, according to a June 10 announcement from Steinmetz.
In June, the local helped graduate students write and launch a petition for higher stipends that garnered hundreds of signatures and media coverage, Schulte said.
“The university told employees for decades that it had no control over wages for classified staff, abdicating responsibility for poverty-level wages,” Schulte said. “Classified employees generally earn hourly wages and work as non-teaching staff. Rather than paying employees a fair wage, the university opened a food pantry on campus. For the last two years, we have argued that UA employees deserve better. Those voices have been heard, and answered.”
“Today’s announcement shows what is possible when we have a union. The Local 965 thanks everyone who signed its petitions and thanks Chancellor Joe Steinmetz for his commitment to investing in the people that make the University of Arkansas work. He has done what past chancellors dismissed as impossible. We are proud of our university, proud of our community. We will continue to work to build a prosperous, uncompromising and exceptional University of Arkansas.”
Schulte is an associate professor of journalism. Local 965 is an affiliate of the Arkansas Education Association/National Education Association.
- “A Living Wage: UA Priorities on the Wrong Path,” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Nov. 14, 2019, opinion piece by Local Vice President Michael Pierce.
- “A Living Wage: State Workers Deserve a Raise,” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Feb. 4, 2019 opinion pierce by Local Vice President Michael Pierce.
- “Union Rallies to Push for Raise for Workers, Assistants at UA,” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, April 8, 2018.
- “National Union Calls on UA System, Officials to Raise Minimum Wage,” Arkansas Traveler, April 7, 2018.
- “AFSCME Local 965 Calls For Higher Wages at UA,” KNWA-TV/KFTA-TV, April 7, 2018.
- “Employee Union Rallies for Living Wages at U of A,” KHBS-TV/KHOG-TV, April 7, 2018.
- “Union Launches Living Wage Campaign,” KUAF-FM public radio, April 6, 2018.
- Posts on the U of A Living Wage campaign at arkansas965.org, the local’s website.