More than 320 students participated in Wednesday afternoon’s Living Wage Rally, which began at the Arch and finished at the Rebecca Crown Center where President Schapiro’s office is located. Armed with posters, megaphones and chant sheets, students voiced their opinion about raising wages for university service employees.
“We want to build a truly inclusive community where workers have the ability and the dignity to feel like they can fully participate in our community,” said Matt Fischler, a campaign coordinator of the Northwestern Living Wage Campaign.
The Living Wage Campaign organized Wednesday’s rally to garner support for an increase in benefits for service employees. These benefits include providing employees access to the library, discounts to cultural and sporting events and a raise in hourly wages to $13.23, the “Living Wage” according to the Illinois Self-Sufficiency Standard.
“This is not a wage people get rich off of,” said Fischler. “Literally it’s defined to be sufficient to meet basic needs so no individual has to sacrifice any life necessity.”
The Northwestern Living Wage Campaign began organizing during Fall quarter. Although the campaign has met with President Schapiro and other administrators, no progress has been made yet to make any permanent changes in the hourly wage.
“We’ll continue to consider it carefully,” said Al Cubbage, Vice President for University Relations. “It’s an issue that obviously has an impact on the university budget and that’s something we think about very carefully, particularly when tuition increases and room and board increases are part of it.”
Professor Nancy MacLean, a history professor in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences and former administrator, believes that with an endowment of $6 billion, Northwestern can afford to pay their employees the living wage.
“It’s going to let us be a leader on creating a socially sustainable system in which every member of our community and our society and our workplace is valued,” said MacLean, a 20-year Northwestern professor.
The Living Wage Campaign began advertising for the event last week via traditional methods, like going door-to-door and flyering, as well as social media, like YouTube and Facebook. The Campaign launched a new website to support their marketing blitz and help students learn more about the cause.
“We want to make it easy for students to learn about it,” Fischler said. “We’ve been doing all this internet pushing so we can put all the info out there.”
Students that attended the rally, while new to the campaign, could feel the impact it had not only on the campaign, but on the Northwestern community.
“This was the first time I’ve seen the campus come together for an issue and actually make some noise about an issue that matters to students, faculty and our community as a whole.” said Kristen Cragwall, a Communication senior and a member of the NCDC, a co-sponsor for the Northwestern Living Wage Campaign.
“Just being at the rally and seeing how many people care that Northwestern is a community [was very important],” said Leslie Clark, a Medill freshman. “That made me feel really good about being here.”