Bid to compromise living wage for student workers fails in Senate

Alex Gravlee, Contributing Writer

After much debate, a second resolution to encourage The University of Alabama to adopt a living wage failed in the Student Government Association Senate on Thursday. 

This legislation is a compromised version of a similar resolution that failed in the Senate last week. 

The new resolution did not specify a wage.

 Sens. Justin McCleskey and Drew St. Charles, the authors of the resolution, said their hope was to begin dialogue with UA administration about University employees making a livable wage, not to argue for a specific price point. 

McCleskey and St. Charles said it would increase the University’s competitive advantage by attracting more talented students and workers. A higher wage, they said, would mean current student workers could focus on their studies and performance more. 

Supporters said the University’s minimum wage of $7.25 per hour falls short of Tuscaloosa’s calculated $14.55 living wage for a single person with no children. 

“Students have spread themselves thin to even accept campus work and live off of it,” McCleskey said.

Secretary of the Senate Grace Federico said that income sources are inconsistent due to COVID-19-related budget cuts affecting many UA divisions. Instead of passing a resolution immediately, Federico said it would be wiser to “continue these [minimum wage] conversations with higher admin.” 

Sen. Andrew Bregman agreed. He said a better wage could be possible with the support of the UA administration.

Sen. John Dodd, a supporter of the resolution, said legislation should not deter University administration from offering a better wage. 

“If a recommendation [for a livable wage] digresses that progress, then that just shows that our university officials are unfit to lead,” Dodd said. 

Sen. CJ Pearson said drastically raising the minimum wage could displace many jobs at the University, making it risky for many workers involved. 

“I would make the argument that those people would much rather have a job than to not have one at all,” Pearson said. 

Many supporters of the resolution reminded the senate that the point of this resolution was to invite discussion with UA administration about a higher wage, saying the fears of rushing the University into making a drastic wage increase were baseless. 

St. Charles, among other supporters, was frustrated with the SGA upon the bill’s failure. 

“[This is what] happens when you have … a student government that’s not representative of your student body,” St. Charles said.

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