The University of Memphis (UofM) will raise its minimum wage from $13 to $15 an hour, starting June 5.
In a copy of the email obtained by The Tennessee Star, university faculty and staff were informed by President Dr. David Rudd on Tuesday that the raise was a culmination of adjustments done over the past year. Rudd shared that some of they’d implemented a hiring freeze, reduction in operational costs, and forms of attrition.
“Given the hard work of so many on our campus, we have been able to develop and implement a sustainable financial model, one that will allow us to raise the minimum wage for all of our University employees to $15 per hour effective the bi-weekly pay period beginning June 5, 2021, and do so without shifting the burden to students through tuition increases,” read the email. “I am more confident than ever that we will emerge from this pandemic stronger and are now in a position to honor our commitment to increasing our minimum wage.”
Rudd noted that the COVID-19 pandemic caused financial strains that forced administrative reductions and thinned out their operations. He didn’t offer any further details.
Rudd’s spokespersons wouldn’t offer further comment beyond the email.
UofM’s Faculty and Staff Senate originally petitioned for a $15 minimum wage back in 2018. However, the resolution only spurred Rudd to increase the minimum wage by 50 cents at the time. It wasn’t that Rudd disagreed with the request – he stated that he desired to implement $15 minimum wage, but that it was a matter of workable logistics.
In 2019, Rudd raised the minimum wage again to just over $11 an hour. Not long after, Rudd alleged that the university had a “definitive plan” for raising the minimum wage to $15. However, reporters who issued an open records request with UofM were told that no such plan existed. That fall, he received a pay raise of nearly $100,000 and awarded an annual $125,000 in retention incentive pay.
Then, almost exactly one year ago, Rudd had announced that they would raise the university’s minimum wage to $13 per hour.
At $15, the university’s adjusted minimum wage is over double the federal minimum wage. Tennessee ranks as one of the ten states in the country with the lowest cost of living, and doesn’t have a state minimum wage law.
The university’s move aligns with a bill proposed by Representative Steve Cohen (D-TN-09) to raise the federal minimum wage to $15. Cohen has been a consistent advocate for raising the minimum wage. In his first year in Congress, Cohen voted for the minimum wage increase that currently defines the federal minimum wage. Last year, Cohen advocated for a bill that proposed increasing the federal minimum wage over the course of 7 years until it reached $15.
Cohen’s bill aligns with President Joe Biden’s economic plan, which supports raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has warned that an increase of that magnitude would render 1.3 million individuals jobless, reduce business income, raise consumer prices, reduce output of goods and services, and decline the nation’s capital.
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Corinne Murdock is a reporter at The Tennessee Star and the Star News Network. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to [email protected].
Photo “University of Memphis” by Bubbahotepblues. CC BY-SA 4.0.