UGA should pay workers more than lip service



Over the past year, UGA leadership has often told members of its community that “we are in the same boat”. However, “we” were not in “this” together during the pandemic, and neither were we before the pandemic.

Demographic disparities in the contraction and death of COVID-19 have revealed that not everyone is in the same situation and not everyone is subject to the same risks. Core workers, who remained on campus during closures and online learning, were often the employees facing the highest risks and lowest wages.

In order to ensure the sustainability of academic services, UGA has forced its employees to make additional efforts. Workers from UGA’s facilities management division installed plastic screens and hand sanitizing stations; building workers performed additional cleaning daily to disinfect classrooms; and assistant lecturers developed and implemented new models of pedagogical education. All this extra work, which was often done in dangerous conditions, was not compensated by the UGA. We ask the UGA to pay more than lip service to thank the workers. It is high time the UGA increased its minimum wage to $ 15 an hour and instituted annual cost of living adjustments.

UGA pays 1,888 full-time workers, or 18% of its full-time workforce, less than $ 31,200 (the wage equivalent of $ 15 per hour). According to the MIT Living Wage Calculator, for an adult without children or dependents, the living wage is $ 14.40. This living wage changes dramatically with the addition of just one child: an adult needs $ 28.03 an hour to support a child.

This unnecessary financial reality drives people to make unfair choices. A person shouldn’t have to choose between paying their utility bills or paying their medication. Due to the UGA’s refusal to pay employees their fair value, many workers have a second and even a third job to make ends meet. The UGA and Georgia’s university system are ultimately responsible for this ethical and political failure, and must correct this injustice. “Thank you” does not put food on the table.

It is not just an economic question, but a question of racial justice and gender equity. Not only do people of color and women earn disproportionately less money in the same occupations as white men, they are also segregated into lower-paying jobs. About 12% of full-time UGA employees are black, but 46% of full-time black employees earn less than $ 31,200 per year. Additionally, only about 2% of full-time employees are Hispanic / Latinx, but 23% of full-time Hispanic / Latinx employees at UGA earn less than $ 31,200 per year. In contrast, 69% of full-time UGA employees are white, but only 14% earn less than $ 31,200 per year. In addition, the average annual salary of all full-time employed women is $ 57,363, compared to $ 75,153 for men, which represents a pay gap of $ 17,790 for employed women. People of color and women are thus concentrated in lower paid positions at the UGA.

Racial disparities in UGA compensation reflect the perpetuation of a racial hierarchy. This hierarchy has been maintained over the centuries through slavery, segregation and forced displacement and property theft under the guise of urban renewal, as in the black neighborhood of Linnentown in the 1960s (for which the UGA refuses always to officially recognize or participate in the repair). In 1785, UGA was built using slaves on the stolen lands of Creek. In 2021, UGA still robs its workers of color by not rewarding them fairly, and UGA’s poverty wages are another form of white supremacy.

The UGA must do its part to end this hierarchy and implement its so-called commitment to racial and gender inclusion, diversity and justice. The university must correct the oppressive economic disparities that it helps to reproduce. A minimum wage of $ 15 an hour and cost of living adjustments are necessary steps towards economic fairness and tackling structural racism, which prevents people of color from building generational wealth.

The cost of living in Athens has continued to rise due to skyrocketing rents – up 33% over the past four years – and rising property taxes, among other factors. As a result, without cost-of-living adjustments (which USG employees haven’t received since 1990), employees earn essentially less money, as their bills go up while wages stagnate. In addition to paying long-tenured employees, an adjustment to the cost of living would remedy wage stagnation and offset wage compression caused by an increase in the minimum wage.

Universities across the country, including Clarke University, John Hopkins, the University of Rochester and the University of Kentucky, have all recently pledged to raise their minimum wages to $ 15. UGA would do well to follow suit.

In addition, the UGA lags behind wages locally; Target now pays $ 15 an hour and the Athens-Clarke County Commission voted in June to raise the minimum wage for public employees to $ 15 an hour.

As the county’s largest employer, UGA has a special responsibility to support the well-being of the Athens community through decent salaries. It is time for the UGA to take action to make “we are in the same boat” a reality. The UGA must take action towards a living wage by raising its minimum wage to $ 15 an hour and implementing cost-of-living adjustments. It is not a question of charity or generosity, but a responsibility. UGA is great because their people make UGA a great company. It is time for UGA to act accordingly.

This column was submitted by the UGA vsUnited Campus Workers of Georgia chapter.



Leave A Reply