On Monday, Nov. 27, SGA voted to pass the Wage Increase for Student Employees Act. This signals a big step toward the Undergraduate Alliance for Student Worker Success’ (UASWS) goal to raise student wages across campus.
The WISE Act, created by SGA Senator Zach Powell, is a resolution that is designed to raise the minimum wage for workers across WCU to $12.
“It has a personal importance to me…as a self-providing student, I would like to seek a job on campus and know that I’m going to be able to pay my rent and feed myself,” Powell said.
For a lot of students working on campus, between pay and the hours they are scheduled, one job is not enough. This is what inspired Aiás Vysagoth to create a student worker union in August of 2022.
“I had noticed my coworkers were getting second jobs to pay their rent. That did not seem right to me or respectable to me,” Vysagoth said. When creating the WISE Act, Powell reached out to Vysagoth and asked for his help in order to bring more attention to the UASWS agenda.
For many student workers, this act provides the ability to focus on academics rather than working two or more jobs just to support themselves.
Kait Lindman is a graduate student who works for the Department of Campus Activities as an office assistant lead. Lindman has worked for DCA for four years and currently makes $11.05 in their position.
“As someone who pays for my own living and pays for all of my own expenses, I have to have this in addition to another job to be able to pay for everything,” Lindman said.
After Assistant Director for Business Operations Catherine MacCallum left her position in DCA, many of her responsibilities fell on Lindman. Even with additional duties Lindman was offered no additional raise or compensation.
The Undergraduate Alliance for Student Worker Success became a recognized student organization on Sept. 23, 2022, and has since been petitioning to raise minimum student wages.
The petition, titled “Raise the minimum wage for part-time student workers at Western Carolina University,” is still open. Students can sign by going to change.org and searching “UASWS WCU”.
According to SGA President CJ Mitchell, the final decision of whether the act will be implemented or not falls upon the several administrations the act applies to. Mitchell does not know when the decision will be made or if it will be made before the end of the spring 2024 semester.
According to Mitchell, the biggest issue with the WISE Act is that it’s unclear where the money to raise wages will come from.
“If that department is fee funded, the student workers are also fee funded…that means the only way they can be paid more is if that fee went up, and we don’t necessarily want to do that,” Mitchell said.
“We’re supposed to get a response, like a reason why they rejected the WISE Act… if that happens, we are going to demonstrate or do something because we are not going to accept that answer,” Vysagoth said.