NYU Responds to Student Pressure: All Student Workers Will Earn At Least $15 / Hour
On Thursday, NYU announced that it would raise the minimum wage to $15 for all student employees. This marks a historic victory for NYU Student Labor Action Movement (SLAM) which has been campaigning for a $15 minimum wage for student workers for the past year. “After countless rallies and two sit-ins, today’s victory shows what can be achieved when students and workers unite for economic justice,” says NYU sophomore SLAM member Brennan O’Rouke.
Even as NYU’s tuition has risen to over $60,000, the third highest in the country, student wages have hovered barely above the state minimum. This decision will bring a living wage to students—library workers, research assistants, and more—who are working to pay their way through college and help offset mounting debt.
“As a student worker, $15 isn’t just a rhetorical number for me,” says Hannah Fullerton. “I’m set to graduate with $80,000 in student loan debt. In the past, it’s been nearly impossible to work enough hours to earn my entire work-study award. This will put a dent in my living expenses, and in the debt I’m already accruing.”
Nationwide, over 70% of college students have to work to pay their way through college — the grounds for a new national student movement. NYU SLAM is an affiliate of United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS), a national student labor solidarity organization with chapters at more than 150 colleges and universities. On February 26, USAS launched a national “#15OnCampus” campaign, building on a Fall victory for 15 at the University of Washington, Seattle. The victory at NYU makes it the first private school in the US to raise wages to $15 campuswide. Similar campaigns are currently underway at Columbia University and Macalester College, as well as public universities including the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Fullerton recalls a rally on December 15 in which students protested for as long as it would take for President Sexton to make $1500, “a measly two and a half hours, to make what I can make in a semester, if I’m lucky. We cheered every time he made $50, that was every five minutes. It really underscored the value that NYU puts on things like executive compensation compared to students’ financial stability.”
This victory also comes as legislators in Albany are considering a proposal to raise the statewide minimum wage to $15. Students will continue to fight in solidarity with workers demanding $15 across every region and sector of New York State.
At NYU, student-workers plan to continue organizing to improve their working conditions, including scheduling, benefits, and backpay. Kendra Prat, a sophomore says, “joining the campaign for better treatment for student workers showed me how much power we have when we rally together and speak out to our university administration.”