The University of Wisconsin announced it will be raising the minimum wage for employees to $15 per hour for all full-time employees.
But, UW is still having trouble filling full-time positions. According to a UW press release, “the university’s Division of Housing has approximately 50 vacancies in positions with starting salaries of less than $15 per hour.”
According to Mark Walters, the university’s chief human resources officer, this vacancy problem is primarily because many of the other public entities in the Madison area, such as the Madison School District, pays more than $15 per hour for custodial work.
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As a result, the university decided that it “really needs to move forward to raise the wages in this area [because] we noticed that we were out of whack with our local competitors,” Walters said.
Walters believes the university will be able to fill job vacancies and people will have more interest in applying for job openings, such as custodial or food-related positions, with the higher minimum wage.
The raise will be put into effect in January 2020, according to the press release, with the intent to benefit those working a full-time job. Walters added that the raise would help facilitate obligations to make a living and support a family.
“[The city of] Madison is a pretty expensive place to live, and making less than $15 per hour makes it difficult to be able to raise a family in Madison,” Walters said. “We have many of our employees in this pay scale that are working two jobs, some working two full-time jobs, to be able to live in the Madison area.”
Walters hopes with this change in salary, workers will not find themselves in need of working upwards of 80 hours a week, or more than one job, to survive financially in the city.
Walters said UW was planning on raising the minimum wage before Gov. Tony Evers’ announcement to raise the minimum wage for state employees, according to a Nov. 8 press release from the Wisconsin Department of Administration.
“We identified that it was a market issue and we certainly were having discussions with [the] state government about their problems filling these jobs, retaining employees in these [Madison] areas,” Walters said.
The university will be achieving the minimum wage of $15 per hour sooner than the state of Wisconsin. According to the press release, the state will implement the $15 minimum in January of 2021.
Student employees who initially thought this change would benefit them as well were disappointed to hear their wages will not change.
“Right now, we have a $10 an hour minimum wage for students. And we believe that the $15 [minimum wage] applies to full-time workers that basically are working 40 hours a week and that students, their primary responsibility is being a student, not working,” Walters said.
UW student and supervisor at Peet’s Coffee Brooke Nowak said it’s “unfair” full-time employees are receiving the $15 per hour minimum wage. UW did raise the student minimum wage in September from $9 to $10 per hour, and Nowak said she was “very happy” upon receiving the raise.
Finding out the rest of the staff is receiving an even higher wage was “disheartening,” Nowak said.
Nowak said being a student employee significantly impacts one’s schedule in terms of school work and social life.
“It is definitely a struggle,” Nowak said. “I think that if I didn’t have to work to pay for bills that it would be a lot easier to just focus on academics. It’s like if you don’t work enough, you’re stressed about money and if you work too much then you’re stressed about grades.”
Although work may not be the priority of some students, many have the financial obligation to obtain some sort of income. Student employees such as Nowak wish they were able to solely focus on academics but they also need to support themselves through the financial burdens that come with life as a student.
The university looks at making changes to the minimum wage at the beginning of every fall semester, Walters said.