Student-workers Fight for 15 on National Day of Action


Hark Kanwal

Braving the rain, students gather in Washington Square Park to protest wages provided by NYU for their student employees.

Ryan Matera, Staff Writer

NYU students endured the rain in Washington Square Park on Tuesday to protest the university’s refusal to raise student laborers’ wages to $15 an hour by 2018.

Students, holding signs with “#FightFor15” on them, joining in with the National Day of Action, which had people all over the country participating in similar movements. Gallatin sophomore Hannah Fullerton spoke first at the protest, lamenting NYU’s methods of keeping students from earning sufficient wages and discussing her work study award.

“I was offered a work package of $3,000 dollars when I started here,” Fullerton said. “But as with most students, that wasn’t the case. Because of how low my wages are and how many hours I am limited to working, there is no way to earn that money.”

Following the protest, the students marched to Bobst Library to deliver a petition asking that the Student Senators Council support the wage increase to $15 an hour if they truly want to represent the best interests of the students. After they submitted this petition, they joined a citywide rally at Foley Square.

Fullerton has been working with the Student Labor Action Movement alongside other groups across campus to fight unjust wages. One such group is the Graduate Student Organizing Committee/United Auto Workers, a graduate student union who initiated a contract with NYU last spring, something the group argues the university is failing to recognize. Doctoral candidate Michelle O’Brien of GSOC claims that the university has not honored its arrangement to raise wages to $15 an hour for the graduate students and looks for loopholes to avoid the contract.

“In our agreement we won a $15 minimum hourly wage at NYU,” O’Brien said. “Since we won this fight, NYU has violated it in every way they can.”

O’Brien said the university has been removing graduate students from work positions and replacing them with undergraduates. She added that the support of undergraduates can help in the fight.

“The undergrad fight for higher wages can help lift this university and support other workers in their fight for decent wages,” she said.

SLAM has a three-year history with the Fight For Fifteen Campaign and protested outside the McDonalds on Broadway earlier this year to fight the corporation’s refusal to raise wages that were recently increased on mandate by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The discussion over wages has surged recently as light has been shed on the difficulty of living on the current federal minimum wage, which is $7.25.

The protest comes one month after Cuomo’s announcement with Vice President Joe Biden that all fast food workers will start receiving $15 an hour and that he will continue his push to make this a statewide mandate.

Cuomo told New Yorkers who work full-time that they should not have to live in poverty.

“Raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour will add fairness to our economy and bring dignity and respect to 2.2 million people,” Cuomo said.

The New York state minimum wage is scheduled to rise to $9 an hour on Dec. 31 of this year. According to NYU’s website, student workers currently earn, on average, between $9 and $15 an hour. The current state minimum wage is $8.75 an hour.

The conversation is being pushed into the national spotlight as Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are fighting for wages to increase to a minimum of $12 and $15, respectively.

CAS freshman Joey Santore, who attended the event, said the minimum wage is something that everyone should be concerned about.

“This problem of raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour is my problem, and your problem, and everyone’s problem,” Santore said.

Email Ryan Matera at [email protected].