Dozens of Ohio State students gathered in freezing temperatures for a protest behind the Ohio Union to demand that the university raise the minimum wage on campus to $15 from the hour for working students to improve overall working conditions.
As a student assistant at the Ohio Union, Anthony Parker’s job varies from shift to shift. Parker, a senior public policy specialist, often works in the dining room kitchen preparing orders for Grubhub drivers to pick up.
At a pay rate of $10.50 an hour, Parker earns less working for the State of Ohio than the delivery drivers who pick up the food he prepares.
“The number one issue among students is pay,” Parker said at Friday’s protest. “The problem is that wages have remained low.”
Ohio State pays its student workers a range of base hourly wages. In keeping with the state’s increase in its 50-cent minimum wage from $8.80 to $9.30 an hour on Jan. 1, the university has raised wages for returning students by the same amount this year. . Tipped employees earn $4.65 per hour. Most on-campus jobs pay between $9.30 and $13 an hour, Parker said.
Resident assistants earn $150 biweekly, or about $4.45 an hour, but these students don’t have to pay for housing and get discounted meals.
University spokesman Ben Johnson said Ohio State employs more than 15,000 students across its six campuses.
“The university offers competitive salaries and benefits to retain and support our critical student employees, and we value their contributions to our campus life and our land-grant mission,” he said.
Parker said many on-campus student workers are paid $10 an hour, which isn’t a lot compared to what they could earn off-campus.
“A lot of places are understaffed, and it’s easier to find nearby off-campus work that pays more, like Target or Chipotle,” he said.
A 2018 study from Georgetown University found that nearly 70% of all college students in the United States are working. But stalled talks over raising the federal minimum wage, combined with the rising cost of higher education, mean most students aren’t getting what they paid for like before.
Sixty years ago, a student who worked part-time during the school year and full-time during the summer in a minimum-wage job could pay for his tuition, fees, and most of his housing and his boarding school at a typical four-year public university. , according to the Urban Institute. Today, that same amount of minimum wage work covers only 57% of tuition and university fees and 27% of room, board and other expenses.
Jacob Messman, a sophomore in Geography and African-American and African Studies, works from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. at the Drackett Tower reception. He helps locked-out students, answers questions from residents and asks visitors to wear their masks properly.
Messman makes $9.30 an hour, but no longer earns for working nights or holidays, and that’s just not enough, he said.
“I’m on starvation pay,” Messman said. “I sacrifice sleep, grades and a social life at work.”
Messman said student workers are “the lifeblood of the university” and make sure things run smoothly. What if none of them showed up for work one day, he asked.
Some on-campus jobs pay higher salaries. Student bus drivers, for example, start at $14 an hour, and employees of university medical centers earn $15 an hour. But Parker said it was a matter of principle to pay all student workers more.
Instead of paying student workers more, Parker said Ohio State has contracted with a third-party employer called Upshift, which matches adults with part-time jobs in the area. Those jobs have a base rate of $18 an hour, he said.
Johnson said the university began working with Upshift in 2020 to meet short-term and temporary needs.
“Salaries are determined by the market and other factors,” Johnson said. “People referred through the Upshift app are not university employees, and students interested in this type of temporary work should apply directly to Upshift.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically changed the way many Americans view work, and it hasn’t excluded students.
University of Minnesota students called on the school to raise the minimum wage for student workers in November 2021. In March 2021, more than 120 student workers from Kenyon College in Gambier picketed their campus, claiming that the college was exploiting student labor and enforcing unfair labor policies during the pandemic that negatively impact some student workers. Since February 2020, at least three strikes have been organized by graduate students at Columbia University, the University of Michigan, and the University of California, Santa Cruz.
Parker said Ohio State students are not trying to organize at this time, but protesters have been in contact with union organizers in Kenyon and other smaller schools.
Although they are protesting under different circumstances, Parker said Kenyon’s union strike was “incredibly inspiring”.
Ohio State student protesters marched across campus to the Scott Dining Hall, where they heard more student workers, as well as Morgan Harper, a lawyer who is running as a Democrat from Ohio for the US Senate.
Parker said he hopes Ohio state leaders will hear the demands of his student workers. Between inflation rates making everyday life more expensive and rising tuition fees, he said it was time for a change.
“There is an easy answer to all of this,” he said.
Mark Stansberry, left, a member of Communications Workers of America Local 4502, speaks Friday during a protest outside the student union by Ohio State students who want the university raises student minimum wage to $15 an hour.
Mark Stansberry, left, a member of Communication Workers of America Local 4502, speaks Friday during a protest outside the Ohio Student Union by Ohio State students who want the university to raise their minimum wage to 15 $ per hour.