A $15 minimum wage is sweeping the nation as we’ve reported: New York, Seattle, Los Angeles and San Francisco. The fight continues and not just in cities and states, but now even on college campuses.
While Today Show host Tamron Hall was approved as a new trustee at Temple University, 15 Now activists tried to storm the trustee board meeting calling for a campus-wide $15 minimum wage for workers and all companies contracted by the school. A few dozen marchers tried to rile up students as they shut down campus streets.
This group needed to do it's homework first as some of the mistakes they made are revealing. Mistake #1, not knowing where to find their target. The ragtag group wanted to get in front of Temple’s President Neil Theobald. They initially went to the building where his office is located was but couldn’t gain entry and he wasn’t there. So they marched over to the auditorium where the Board of Trustees meeting was in session.
That’s when things got chaotic as Philadelphia Magazine reports:
"They let us in after a lot of fighting. They made us leave our bags outside — with security guards watching the bags. We were made to empty them out and carry our things inside if we didn't want to leave computers and other things outside."[Protesters were eventually threatened with arrest and escorted from the auditorium. According to Joshua Albert, the Board of Trustees instituted the "no bags" rule before the meeting in an attempt to keep protesters out. In the meeting, activists did a "mic check" that ended with 10 minutes of listing positions at Temple that make less than $15 an hour.
Protesters were eventually threatened with arrest and escorted from the auditorium. According to Joshua Albert, the Board of Trustees instituted the "no bags" rule before the meeting in an attempt to keep protesters out. In the meeting, activists did a "mic check" that ended with 10 minutes of listing positions at Temple that make less than $15 an hour.
Mistake #2: They didn’t know what Theobald looked like and had to ask police for help. A quick Google search or perusal of the school website would have turned up a head shot or selfie:
When the students arrived at Sullivan Hall earlier, citywide 15 Now organizer Pele Irgangladen attempted to get into the building but was prevented by police officers. "Where is President Theobald?" Irgangladen said. "I don't even know what he looks like!" He later asked a police officer if he'd ever met Theobald, and what color hair he had. (The officer said he'd met Theobald, but declined to answer the hair color question.)
Perhaps their biggest mistake is not understanding the economics behind minimum wage hikes and the unintended consequences of a $15 minimum wage on student wages for example. Here’s what they say:
Organizer Kate Goodman explained that, as a result, 15 Now decided to take direct action against stakeholders. She says there's no solid figure on how many workers at Temple make less than $15 an hour; the list includes security guards, cafeteria workers and students, among others.
Student workers are the lowest-paid on campus, according to 15 Now, with some making as little as $7.25 an hour in the bookstore and library. Goodman says most student workers make between $7 and $10 an hour.
Student workers may earn lower hourly rates, but there’s a huge factor unique to the college setting: student work-study. Many student workers benefit from the federal work-study program which is aid calculated as part of their financial aid package that’s paid out through hourly wages. Instead of going toward your tuition bill, students earn $1,500, $2,000 or more each semester in weekly checks by working in approved jobs on campus or approved off- campus sites. They can spend that money on books, pizza, movies, and other living expenses.
At let’s say $8 an hour, a student can work 187.5 hours over the semester before exhausting their $1,500 work-study. Raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour and that work-study is eaten up with just 100 hours of work. That means weeks before the semester ends, many work-study students may find themselves in the unemployment line because work-study employers can’t afford to pay them all.
There are other impacts of raising the minimum wage to a level as high as $15 an hour that we discuss elsewhere, but this is something that colleges should begin to think through as protesters come barreling on to their campuses.
Just because a school has to comply with new city or state wage increases, doesn’t mean work-study amounts from the federal government increases. Schools and student workers will have to grapple with these unintended consequences. By then the 15 Now organizers will have already moved on to their next campus or city.