Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

UT, pay your workers a livable wage

Jacklin Del Rosario

In 2023, House Bill 202 was introduced in the state legislature calling for a $10,000 pay raise for all state employees. Though the bill did not pass, state workers received a $6,000 pay raise. University workers, who were included in the bill, were excluded from this raise. As a result, they held a rally on March 20 in front of the Tower demanding fair compensation. 

As the cost of living in Austin continues to increase, UT’s minimum wage does not. As a result, many of its 21,000 workers are not paid a livable wage. To prevent rising employee turnover rates and ensure UT remains a top academic institution, it must prioritize equitable pay for workers.

The University declined to comment on this issue.

University workers’ wages were severed from state employees in 2003. According to the Texas State Employees Union, public university workers across the state haven’t received a collective pay raise since 2001.

“State employees got across-the-board pay raises; we did not anymore,” said Anne Lewis, radio-television-film professor and central Texas representative of the Texas State Employees Union. “So, now it was completely dependent on the whims of the University.”

The current minimum wage for UT full-time employees is $15 an hour, while Austin’s livable wage is $20.80 an hour. 

Additionally, Lewis, who does not meet full-time criteria, said that despite working at the school for over 20 years, she has to pay for half of her healthcare. Prior to 2003, she said the University covered her full healthcare plan. The disparity between state employees and University workers in the midst of rising costs of living highlights UT’s inadequate consideration of workers’ well-being. 

Lewis said the University still gave raises to certain faculty based on merit. However, those raises did not extend to all University workers.

“The people that are really suffering are student workers,” Lewis said.

Student employee compensation starts at $8 an hour. Student workers are already faced with juggling their extracurriculars, jobs and class schedules while also paying tuition. With the University’s current monetary policies, they are faced with increased pressure and they lack the financial stability necessary to support themselves.

Evan Scope Crafts, graduate student worker and organizer for the labor activist student group Underpaid@UT, elaborated on the harsh realities many student workers face.

“We have fellow students who are needing to go to the food bank, or struggling to pay rent, or are struggling to pay for health care expenses,” Scope Crafts said.

Scope Crafts said that UT pays research students more in departments with higher funding, with pay ranging from $12.20 an hour to $50 an hour. While some research assistants make a living wage, some make only $25,000 a year, almost half of the estimated $55,000 needed to live in Austin. Despite the lack of funding in some University departments, all student workers must be able to support themselves, which many are unable to do with their current livelihood.

Lewis referenced a financial analysis of UT conducted by the Texas State Employees Union. The report stated UT’s net funds have increased by $2.7 billion since 2019. It also stated that the cost of living in Austin has increased by 75% since 2001, the last time UT workers received an across-the-board pay raise. This unwillingness to adapt to inflation is not sustainable for employees

“The result is that people quit,” Lewis said. “You don’t have any continuity. The people that are left are overworked, have a lot of pressure and they end up quitting. So, it becomes this violent cycle where nobody can really live on those jobs.”

According to Lewis, the union found that the University can afford a $10,000 pay raise for workers, the amount proposed in House Bill 202, for at least four years without even touching its endowment. Raising workers’ wages is financially feasible; UT’s failure to do so implies its lack of concern for employees.

UT must take decisive action to rectify this issue and prioritize its workers. It must recognize and reward the work of their employees’ invaluable contributions to the school’s success. The University’s failure to compensate workers fairly not only undermines their livelihood and well-being but compromises the entire institution. 

Saunders is a journalism and government freshman from Wheaton, Illinois.

Editor’s Note: In the sixth paragraph, a previous version of this story conflated faculty with full-time employees and also stated the minimum wage was $10.35 but actually starts at $8 an hour. A clarification was also made to better reflect Lewis’ part-time position at UT. The Texan regrets this error.

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