Most people likely believe each individual has certain rights that are guaranteed simply by their humanity. Since food and shelter are fundamental needs, these things should be guaranteed to all people. Minimum wage is hardly enough to sustain a family, and many people, especially immigrant workers or those with little education, have to work multiple jobs to make enough money to pay rent. The concept of a living wage has emerged to remedy this problem.
Living wage is location specific. It is derived from the cost of living in the area. Federal banking and HUD guidelines state that no more than 30 percent of a person’s income should be spent on rent or housing after working 40 hours a week. In Fort Worth, the calculated living wage is approximately $11.25 per hour.
At TCU, some students have dedicated themselves to the cause of ensuring everyone at our university is paid in this fashion. The Living Wage campaign on campus is working toward a living wage for the nearly 360 TCU employees that make less than the recommended amount.
Most of these employees are housekeepers, physical plant employees and administrative assistants. These people are essential to keeping our campus beautiful and to keeping our school running smoothly.
The TCU mission statement claims its goal is “to educate individuals to think and act as ethical leaders and responsible citizens in the global community.”
If TCU pays 360 of its employees a wage that does not cover the cost of living in this city, is that ethical leadership?
“We feel the university has an obligation to provide such standards for their employees,” Seth Harris, a representative for Living Wage, said.
We are told that we are expected to be ethical leaders, yet TCU is shirking its responsibility to care for its employees. As ethical and responsible leaders, it is our duty to make sure these people are given reasonable wages. The university must do more.
It is true that increasing the base level of pay on campus could increase tuition, but this amount would be spread out over our entire student body.
According to literature from Living Wage, the average pay of those 360 employees is $9.21 per hour. Once all is said and done, including a subtraction of merit raises of 3 percent and increases to retirement, the approximate cost of increasing wage would be $1.5 million. That amount is less than 1 percent of the estimated $269 million operating budget.
Once that cost has been divided over the entire student body, and the increase implemented over 5 years, the estimated impact would be about $40 a year for each student. The cost would be minimal, and, for the sake of social justice, a tuition hike is a small price to pay.
The Living Wage campaign is a great new presence on campus, and I believe it holds promise to affect change in our community.
Instead of maintaining a mere pretense of ethical and responsible behavior, the university should practice what it preaches and give the Living Wage campaign’s platform a close look.
Lyndsay Peden is a freshman biology and political science major from Versailles, Ky.