Editorial: Fighting for a fair wage

Student employees are being financially mistreated at Citrus College. Around the United States, the slogan “Fight for $15” is rallying minimum wage workers from various industries to finally demand a living wage for their hard work. Citrus College students working minimum wage campus jobs need to join the fight, demanding reform on positional, annual and work-study wages.
As of fall 2014, the Office of Human Resources froze Citrus College student employment wages at $9 per hour. This change also blocks workers from receiving yearly raises or positional pay for technical skill sets. When asked back in August 2014  Robert Sammis, director of human resources, stated having different pay levels “made no sense” since students’ work “across campus is fairly consistent in terms of levels of responsibility and duties.” In actuality, whether a student is a new worker or holding a leadership position on campus both are forced to work for less to work on campus.

Student employees working to afford their education and support their responsibilities are making less than $9,000 per year. By national standards, this is below the poverty line of $11,770. Students are unable to live or afford school costs, when  even Citrus College’s own financial aid office estimated cost of attendance for two semesters is  $14,671 for independent students and $11,791 for dependent students.

The city of Los Angeles recently increased the minimum wage to $15 per hour to be implemented in 2020, making it one of the largest cities to do so. This only affects those who work within the Los Angeles city limits. While Los Angeles County will be increasing the minimum wage to $10 per hour in 2016, educational institutions have the option to meet or increase their student wages at any time.  University of California has approved $15 per hour minimum wage by 2017 for their student workers. Select cities and schools are slowly implementing wage reform and allow their students wage and positional increases.

Americans against the minimum wage reform have attacked protesters by labeling minimum wage workers as having neither skills nor experience. Fast food and student workers receive the most ridicule from opposing parties that view these service jobs as temporary, unchallenging and insignificant.

In the business sector, some analysts fear wage reform will force businesses to raise product prices and cut employment to survive the financial impact. This tired, empty threat is used constantly to silence policy change-favoring employees. Typically, employees will acquiesce to this fear while businesses freely change their budget and staffing to increase profit.

In the education sector, community college administration views students as temporary employees who are receiving support from their parents. This is a misconception of the modern student. In the College Student Pulse 2013 survey, 4 out of 5 students attending college work at least part-time. These students pay for their education and college expenses using their own money.

If minimum wage rates had accurately kept pace with America’s productivity and inflation since 1968, minimum wage workers would be making approximately $26 an hour. Campus jobs with fair wages will benefit student employees by increasing their ability to afford their education without accumulating debt from loan programs.

Wage reform is for hardworking students, with real needs and real responsibilities. These students are putting in the work and deserve a living wage. Student jobs that offer a fair wage and promotional opportunity will help students thrive in their academic pursuits by minimizing financial hindrances.

By establishing fair, skilled and opportunity driven $15 per hour wages, Citrus College will continue to uphold its “College of Completion” stance. Being a college that supports their students academic and financial needs, shows students that their hard work will never be undervalued.