Currently, the petition that a student worker created three weeks ago to raise minimum wage on campus has 2,447 signatures. This high number suggests that student workers, friends, families and local residents feel that NAU is doing a disservice to student workers by paying them, in some departments, as low as $8.50 an hour.
There has also been coverage on this topic, as more and more student workers feel they are being underpaid for their services and are coming forward. Although there are many students on campus who feel they deserve to be paid more, there is a whole other group that believes there is no problem with how much student workers are paid.
This group lists benefits, like time flexibility and convenience, as the biggest reasons why student workers should be satisfied with the pay on campus. I have heard this from strangers as I go to work and hear friends discuss this outside of work.
Well, we are not satisfied.
People have personally told me they would gladly take an off-campus job if they were able to have an easier time paying their bills, paying their rent, paying their electricity or paying for their food.
Despite the amount of signatures the petition has gained since it began and the unhappiness that is exuded in some places on campus, a state bill was introduced in the House of Representatives at the end of January that, if passed, will leave student workers to be paid the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.
When you do the math, the loss is $145 for those who work the maximum of 29 hours a week. If student workers were able to work 40 hours a week, the total loss would be $200 a month. That is a lot of money to lose. It’s a lot of money to lose when you are responsible for paying utilities, groceries and any transportation costs if you live off campus. It gets harder for people who have dietary restrictions and have to buy fresh food. It gets harder for students who are going to class and working all day and have to buy fast food because they don’t have time to cook. The student life is hard, and many people are struggling.
The news about the state bill came shortly after the petition started. The state bill was most likely not in response to the petition, but the fact that it came so soon after felt like a slap to the face to most student workers.
According to an Arizona Daily Sun article, Representative Bob Thorpe said students need to be able to be pay for their education and also gain real-world experience. I agree with him, however, lowering our minimum wage to the federal minimum wage will not help us. The costs of tuition and living in Flagstaff are so astronomically high, getting paid $7.25 an hour will not improve our situation.
Like most problems facing NAU, it is rarely discussed and if it does, President Rita Cheng simply releases a neutral statement to address the issue while not really addressing the issue. Flagstaff is a great place and NAU is a good school with many opportunities, but if the school can’t even support students to allow them to live here and continue their education, there is a huge problem.
I may be graduating, but the future of other students rides on this minimum wage issue. The future of NAU enrollment, retention and how feasible it is to get an education here rides on this minimum wage issue. Local businesses will not be able to provide jobs for all students who need one. NAU has to do more.