/‘A huge victory’ Minimum wage workers at USM get pay raise after protest

‘A huge victory’ Minimum wage workers at USM get pay raise after protest

The president of the non-profit Mississippi News University of Southern Mississippi announced a pay raise for hourly workers on Wednesday. This comes two weeks after United Campus Workers held a protest demanding a $15 minimum wage. It has been almost a decade since USM last increased its minimum wage. In an email to faculty members and staff, President Rodney Bennett stated that the minimum wage will rise to $11.25 per hour for benefit-eligible hourly workers, from $10.10 per hour. These workers will also be entitled to a 3% increase in their wages. The pay increase for graduate assistants and faculty and staff will be 3%. However, non-benefitable positions like adjunct instructors and visiting faculty will not see any increases. Samuel Ewing, adjunct instructor, was a key organizer of UCW’s rally. He expressed his delight at the raise and called it “just the start”. Ewing stated that this was a major victory for all the university’s workers. Ewing said, “This is a huge victory for all working people at this university.” Bennett thanked Ewing and faculty for their participation in the UCW protest on May 5. Bennett wrote that the university could not commit the funds necessary to raise campus’ minimum wage to $15 per hour. Bennett stated that a multi-year plan was required to adjust the minimum wage for all employees. Bennett sent an email saying that although he was unable to allocate future institutional funds beyond what was allowed by the additional legislative allocation this year, he was pleased with our progress in raising minimum hourly rates for benefit-eligible workers to $11.25 an hour. With limited exceptions most salaried staff and faculty will see a 3% increase in their pay this year. USM will increase the stipends of graduate assistants by $1.500 every fall semester over the next three year. This will bring their total pay to $11,700 in fall 2024. USM spokesperson Margaret Ann McCloud did not respond to Mississippi Today’s inquiry about the number of hourly workers who will be benefited from the wage rise. Janice Jones, who was a custodian and helped organize UCW’s rally said that she heard about the wage increases Wednesday morning when Bennett called her. Bennett asked her questions about maintenance department’s attendance system that is points-based, she said. Mississippi Today reported this in an article last Wednesday. She said, “I wish it was more, but we got a beginning.” She said, “I wish it had been more, but what we got is a beginning.”