EDITORIAL: Rutgers Fight for 15 should aim at state
Further rise in wages may give students more time to study
The American Association of University Professors-American Federation of Teachers (AAUP-AFT) has planned a demonstration for this coming Friday, Sept. 21 to continue to push for better working conditions, which includes the fight for a $15 minimum wage. The #FightFor15 movement has been a hot point of controversy on campus between student-activists and the University in recent years, and this year is expected to be no different. Last December, members of United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) past a line of police officers blockading a Board of Governors meeting chanting, “We work, we sweat, put that 15 on our set.” There were multiple other protests for this cause in New Brunswick last year, which were presumably at least partially the impetus for the University’s decision to raise the minimum wage on campus from $8.44 to $11 an hour.
A backdrop for this coming protest is the one year, sabbatical of former Chancellor Debasish Dutta, as well as the continually increasing costs of tuition. Considering that many students struggle to pay for school here at Rutgers, let alone books and food, a demand for help is in no way unreasonable. As of last year, more than worked in dining halls, libraries, offices and other facilities on all three of Rutgers’ campuses — New Brunswick — Piscataway, Newark and Camden campuses. The increase in wages applies to those students, as well as some faculty members and students in the Federal Work Study program.
A pressing issue with regard to raising the minimum wage is a displacement of operational funds that businesses can use. When wages are raised, employers are in some cases forced to decrease the number of hours their employees can work. The same goes for places of work here at Rutgers. Students rightfully fighting for higher wages may not actually end up receiving more money in the long run, even if their wages are higher, because their employer will simply schedule them in for less hours. And the same goes for students in the need-based Federal Work Study program — their money is federally subsidized, but only a certain amount is granted in total. This means that students will not be earning more money in total with a rise in wages, but will be simply making the same amount and working less hours.
But the aforementioned lessening of hours is not necessarily a negative thing. Any student who works knows the struggle of juggling class, homework, extra-curricular activities and the pressure of their job. Despite the fact that students may end up making the same amount of money as before, by raising the minimum wage those students will be able to spend more of their time on the reason they are even here in the first place — their education. At the end of the day, that education is what will hopefully pay off in the future.
President Robert L. Barchi and the administration are presumably worried about the effect the raising of the minimum wage might have on the University’s operating budget. Though the University does have hundreds of millions in unrestricted reserves, utilizing that money is not nearly as simple as it may sound on the face. Maybe a good course of action for student activists fighting for higher wages would be to direct their protests at the state and federal governments more so than the University itself. After all, significantly more students work off-campus than on it.
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