Hundreds of Rutgers students and unionized employees rallied Friday in a continued push for higher wages for all campus workers.
The Rutgers University chapter of United Students Against Sweatshops organized the campus march to demand that minimum wage for all workers — including 13,000 student workers and 20,000 unionized employees — be raised to $15.
Students were joined at the rally by people from around the country attending the United Students Against Sweatshops National Conference, which is being held at Rutgers on Friday and Saturday.
Last year, Rutgers President Robert Barchi responded to student protests by raising the campus minimum wage from $8.44 an hour to $11 an hour, effective Jan 1.
The 30 percent hike only applied to student workers.
But students said the raise to $11 was not enough and they would not settle for “poverty pay.”
“While we won $11, this is only a partial victory,” organizers said when announcing Friday’s march, saying that Barchi “threw them a bone.”
“If he was willing to give us $11 before, imagine what we’ll get when we take back our streets,” organizers said.
Rutgers officials said they are trying to keep the state university affordable for all students.
“Knowing that more than 13,000 of our students work many hours each week on our campuses to defray education costs, President Barchi increased the minimum wage for student workers employed by Rutgers on all campuses from $8.44 per hour to $11 per hour, effective Jan. 1, 2018,” university officials said in a statement. “The university will continue to work to keep tuition increases at a minimum while seeking new ways to support students as they pursue their degrees.”
Members of Rutgers’ faculty union, the American Association of University Professors-American Federation of Teachers, also attended the rally. They pledged to stand in solidarity with the students while also fighting for union workers’ rights.
“What’s been happening is that tuition is going up. We have very few scholarships and fellowships left,” said Deepa Kumar, a Rutgers professor and president of the faculty union.
“Our students have to work to make ends meet, which they shouldn’t have to do. And then being paid a wage that doesn’t allow you to pay your rent, to pay your bills, to pay your tuition. That’s just wrong,” Kumar said.
Friday’s rally is part a series of “Working People’s Day of Action” events scheduled for this weekend nationwide. The events are organized by the national “It’s about Freedom” campaign, as workers around the country plan to hold events to push for higher wages.