The University of Tennessee announced today it will raise the starting minimum wage for its workers by $.50 per hour in January, with another $.50 raise to follow six months later.
This will be the second increase to the minimum wage since 2010, when the university created a Compensation Advisory Board (CAB) to look into wage issues. At the time, new hires were making $7.50 per hour, only a quarter more than the $7.25 national minimum wage. After the raises announced today, new employees will begin work at $9.50 per hour.
“We’re committed as a University System to offering competitive compensation to our diverse and dedicated workforce,” said UT President Joe DiPietro in a statement released this morning. “With the help of our Compensation Advisory Board, we’re making steady progress toward our compensation goals, especially those affecting positions at the lower pay grades, despite limited resources.”
United Campus Workers (UCW) Local President Thomas Anderson tells WUOT News the increases are a welcome step in the right direction, but they still fall far short of providing a living wage. Anderson says UCW is asking for the wage to be increased to $12.50 per hour. “That would allow folks to pay their bills, save a little money, and maybe even have a bit extra for recreation, something that folks at the top levels seem to think is a privilege and not a basic human need.”
To offer some perspective, Anderson points out the organization that eventually evolved into the UCW in Knoxville originally asked UT to provide a living wage of $9.50 per hour. That was 13 years ago.
UT officials say campuses and operations within the university are reallocating existing funds in order to pay for the increase, estimated at $273,000. The raises will affect approximately 223 current employees working at UT operations throughout Tennessee.