The wage conversation at St. Olaf


This summer the University of Minnesota (U of M) raised its minimum wage for all campus workers to 15 dollars an hour. The previous wage at U of M was the Minnesota state minimum wage of 10 dollars and 33 cents, the same wage that as of last semester St. Olaf was paying its students. The U of M made the wage increase based on multiple factors, including student protests, city pressure, and most importantly staff shortages. For the U of M, the lack of students willing to work on-campus jobs was staggering, especially given the higher wages offered by non-campus employers less than a block away from students’ classes. 

Ultimately U of M leadership conceded that a higher wage could bring back workers and improve worker retention — and so far it has. Given the proximity of the U of M to our campus, and the pull U of M students seem to have on their campus’ leaderships actions, St. Olaf students should be paying attention to this news. Wages at St. Olaf continue to settle right above minimum wage, and unlike the U of M, there are few opportunities for off-campus employment. For St. Olaf to charge tuition prices upwards of 60,000 dollars and not provide student employment with opportunities to earn a reasonable wage, is worth students getting upset about. It’s not only that the school doesn’t pay us enough, but it’s also that wages seem to be a taboo topic on campus. Many students actually have gotten a raise in the past semester from St. Olaf and the starting wage seems to have increased to 11 dollars an hour. Yet no one is talking about it or demanding more. If this is the administration’s way of appeasing the calls for higher wages, I’d say students aren’t being loud enough — thanks to the proof of college students elsewhere getting vastly superior results. St Olaf students do have one thing in common with U of M enrollees, however — we also seem to have a staff shortage. 

Every day when I walk into Stav, there seem to be overworked employees hustling about trying to make ends meet. This presents a problem very similar to the one the U of M faced. If you want more workers — and trust me, St Olaf does — you have to pay for them. I’m not suggesting students form an all-out coup to force the administration into a wage increase, but taking a few tools from the toolkit of U of M students might help bring the wage conversation to our campus. Right now the best tool seems to be worker shortages, and taking note of that may just help St. Olaf students spark our own movement for 15 dollars an hour.

Alli Hering is from Apple Valley, Minn.

Her major is undeclared.


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