Student Government Aims to Raise Campus Minimum Wage

The newest efforts from Student Government are to increase campus wage for student workers. Currently, employed Manhattan College students earn less than minimum wage at an hourly rate.

The attempts to create this charge are being spearheaded by President Micaela Bishop and Ryan Quattromani, senior class vice president.

“It may be a surprise to many that they are not being paid minimum wage according to NY state [standards]. They could make more money working off campus,” Bishop wrote in an email statement. “By raising minimum wage we are really just giving the students an opportunity to make a fair wage, in an academic setting, and working within the Lasallian mission.”

As reported by the New York State Department of Labor, as of Dec. 31, 2016, minimum wage in New York City for large employers (10 workers or more) is $11.00 an hour, while small employers (less than 10 workers) is at $10.50 an hour.

Continually, Nassau, Suffolk and Westchester Counties’ minimum wage was set at $10 an hour, while the remainder of the state was at $9.70 an hour.

These wages are to increase accordingly as follows,  $13/hour (large employers), $12/hour (small employers), $11/hour (Long Island and Westchester) and $10.40 (rest of state) by Dec. 31, 2017.

“Annual increases for the rest of the state will continue until the rate reaches $15 minimum wage (and $10 tipped wage). Starting 2021, the annual increases will be published by the Commissioner of Labor on or before October 1. They will be based on percentage increases determined by the Director of the Division of Budget, based on economic indices, including the Consumer Price Index,” reported the official website of the New York State Department of Labor.

Notably, there are two existing forms of ‘campus employment’. The first, Federal Work Study (FWS), and the second, Campus Employment. Student workers in these positions typically make around $9 an hour.

The Manhattan College website explains how these two programs differ.

“FWS is first and foremost a federal financial aid program. Community service jobs are ONLY available to FWS eligible students per U.S. Department of Education guidelines,” reads the college’s website.

Campus Employment, is a little more complex.

‘Manhattan College matches federal funds in the form of our campus employment portion. It is because of this federal funding that our student employment program is possible. Also, federal guidelines stipulate many rules and regulations. Students, department heads/supervisors, the Controller’s Office and the Financial Aid Administration Office work together to ensure that the College is always in compliant regarding all student employment options’

The mission of these programs is to provide students with work that is convenient, sustainable and paying.

“Students are able to perform work that they may relate to a future career, earn a competitive salary rate, have flexibility in scheduling work hours, and eliminate the cost of commuting to and from work,” reads the college’s website.

Students are required to submit FAFSA before working under CE or FWS.

Student Government is striving to achieve increased wages for CE and FWS alike.

“Many schools have already decided to operate under Cuomo’s new minimum wage model,” said Bishop. “This leaves a remarkably important lesson for students who will soon be taking on professional full time jobs, everyone earns a fair day’s pay for a hard day’s work.”

Bishop continued to share that neighboring school’s, such as NYU, have already begun increasing campus wages.

“The State University of New York is proud to ensure that anyone working on a state-operated SUNY campus continues to be paid at least minimum wage, including all full-time staff as well as students participating in work study programs,” said SUNY Board Chairman H. Carl McCall. “We look forward to joining Governor Cuomo in setting a model for state entities and public university systems across the country.”

Similar statements were made at NYU.

“Although our forthcoming efforts on affordability will mainly be guided by the work of the Steering Committee, there is another early step to address affordability that has been under consideration for some time at NYU that I believe we should take – setting a minimum of $15/hour for Work Study recipients and other student workers, to be fully implemented over the next three years,” said NYU President Andrew Hamilton.

Bishop added that the change would positively affect the MC’s student workers.

“This affects so many of our students,” she wrote. “We will vote on the resolution [tomorrow], but let’s make sure we bring awareness to the issue at hand. I want to reiterate the importance of having students help out with the writing process and getting the conversation started on campus.”

One student who would be affected is Gianni Portale.

“I think that we should definitely be getting at least minimum wage,” said Portale. “I work 12 hours a week and getting paid $9 an hour […] Realistically you can’t live off of that at school.”

Student Government is not the first to suggest this. Margaret Groarke and Corrine Fitzpatrick, along with others, had previously composed a letter arguing for a similar change.

“I made an effort to convince the admin that they should pay students working on campus the NYC minimum wage ($11 an hour, due to go up to $13 in January) and to pay students working FWS jobs at community organizations off campus a dollar more per hour,” said Groarke, a government professor.

This letter was unsuccessful, but Groarke feels that the Student Government can have different results.

“I think it’s appropriate that Student Government take up this issue, and I expect their voice will be more powerful than mine,” she said.

Groarke expressed her views on the matter.

“Federal Work Study and college employment jobs are intended to be both a form of financial aid and a career development experience. Paying students a higher hourly wage will allow them to earn the amount in their financial aid package with less hours of work. The economic cost to the college is limited by the fact that each student has been promised a particular dollar amount — $1500, for example — not a particular number of hours,” she said.

Quattromani spoke of the issue while subtly alluding to Student Government’s future plans.

“There will be a lot more to come,” he said. “We’re just trying to open the curtains.”