A Return of the Campaign for Living Wage at St. Mary's

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Stemming from The Point News article last semester about raises in administration wages and a freeze on college grounds, housekeeping, and maintenance staff wages, a campaign has started that is demanding a living wage for these college staff members.

In the campaign flyers, many of which were distributed during the Club Fair on campus on Friday, Feb. 20, a living wage is defined as “the minimum yearly salary required for a worker to meet basic needs for themselves and their families.” Living wage in St. Mary’s County is $34,317 for a single-parent, one child home. Also according to the flyers, “the lowest paid College staff members make $24,500 a year.” Thus, many college staff are paid far below living wage and cannot afford basic necessities.

This is not the first time students at St. Mary’s have campaigned for a living wage. In September of 2006, students rallied and held a sit-in in former college President Jane Margaret O’Brien’s office for seven days. In a Washington Post article written by staff writer Michael Tunison on Sept. 24, 2006, it was stated that the students were “demanding that the college pay all workers a living wage, which they defined as $32,000 annually, based on cost-of-living figures for a household of three or four living in a two-bedroom apartment in St. Mary’s County and spending less than 30 percent of their income on shelter and utilities.” During the sit-in, students missed class and extracurricular activities and received a lot of support from college staff members.

Though progress was made with the union (the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3980), staff members did not receive a raise in salaries to the demanded figure.

In an email sent to all staff, faculty, and students on Jan. 18, President Joseph Urgo stated, “I am keenly aware of the ongoing anxiety that the state freeze [on wages] has created. We have taken advantage of whatever windows were available to make adjustments where possible, and will continue to do so when the opportunity is provided.”

Meetings about the campaign for a living wage occur on Mondays at 8:00 p.m. in Goodpaster Hall, room 186. Email smcmsds@gmail.com with any questions.

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