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United Campus Workers union delivers petition for increased wages to USC executive

<p>Members and supporters of the United Campus Workers march toward the Osborne Administrative Building following a rally outside of USC President Michael Amiridis' home on March 28, 2024. The union delivered a petition created last August to Stacy Fritz, the chief of staff at the University of South Carolina.</p>
Members and supporters of the United Campus Workers march toward the Osborne Administrative Building following a rally outside of USC President Michael Amiridis' home on March 28, 2024. The union delivered a petition created last August to Stacy Fritz, the chief of staff at the University of Թϱ.

The United Campus Workers of Թϱ delivered its petition to increase minimum wages and salaries for USC workers in a rally on Thursday afternoon.

Union members and supporters gathered outside the house of USC President Michael Amiridis on the Horseshoe to begin their rally. After hearing from several speakers and reciting chants, supporters marched to the Osborne Administrative Offices to officially deliver the petition to Stacy Fritz, the chief of staff at the university.

We want to make our voices heard and let President Amiridis know that we have the support of a lot of workers, a lot of community members,” union Chair Victor Ponds said.

The petition was created last August after union members conducted a workshop where they discussed the changes they wanted to see, Ponds said.

By far, the responses were that we aren’t making enough money to live,” Ponds said. “Inflation has increased rents, increased groceries, and our wages have stayed the same.”&Բ;

The desired changes include instituting a minimum wage of $20 per hour for all full-time and part-time campus workers, including those contracted through vendors such as Aramark. The urges a minimum of $40,000 per year for salaried employees with guaranteed increases based on the number of years an employee has spent working at USC.

It also urges that graduate workers receive a minimum annual stipend of $20,000 or an equivalent hourly wage and that tuition and fees are fully covered for full-time graduate students.

For all workers, the petition urges that USC makes annual adjustments to employees' wages to keep up with changes to the cost of living due to inflation.

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A supporter of the United Campus Workers holds a picket sign reading "Gamecocks for living wages" as the group marches toward the Osborne Administrative Building on March 28, 2024. The union created a petition urging that USC makes annual cost of living adjustments to the wages of all university workers.

“These changes will not only improve the financial security of workers at USC, but they will also contribute to a more inclusive, diverse and productive academic community," the union said in the petition.

Mike Greene, a tutor for Gamecock student athletes, has been a member of the union since last August. He attended and spoke at Thursday’s rally, where he said he is looking forward to seeing President Amiridis' response to the petition.

There’s a saying in the union that’s been going around a lot today, and it’s, 'When we fight, we win,'” Greene said. “We’re going to keep on going until we have our demands met.”&Բ;

The United Campus Workers union was founded in 2020 to represent graduate workers. Its first project focused on getting the healthcare of graduate students fully subsidized, Ponds said.

It started with graduate workers, but it’s really expanded,” Ponds said. “We still have a large amount of graduate student workers, largely because our stipends are very low.”

Robert Boland has been a member of the union since becoming a graduate assistant at USC last year. His annual stipend is not enough to cover tuition costs, he said.

I noticed right away that the pay was super low, Boland said. “My stipend is only $5,000 for the whole year."

The United Campus Workers' membership has expanded to include university faculty, staff, landscapers, janitors, maintenance workers and parking service workers since it was founded, Ponds said.

Members of the Union of Southern Service Workers attended the rally to support the petition. Tricia Anderson, a Wendy’s employee and USSW member from Columbia, said that if the United Campus Workers' efforts are successful, other workers in Columbia could benefit from it.

Half this city is owned by USC,” Anderson said. “If they get a win, and they get their livable wages, it will in turn make us get our livable wages.”&Բ;

The university has taken several actions in the last two years to increase wages for faculty and staff, according to a statement from USC that was sent to Թϱ by internal communications manager Collyn Taylor.

These actions include raising the minimum wage for full-time employees to $15 in July 2023, raising the minimum stipend for full-time PhD students working at least 20 hours per week and developing a market job structure in October 2022, which contributed $4.3 million to raise employee salaries to the “minimum of assigned market ranges," according to the statement.

“USC recognizes and values everyone who works at the university and how they contribute to its overall success,” according to the statement.

While the university raised the minimum wage for full-time employees to $15, this increase did not include part-time workers or contracted workers, Ponds said.

That’s another way that they get their good PR statement of ‘We raised the minimum wage to $15,’ and in the fine print, (it’s) for full-time workers, but it needs to be for everyone,” Ponds said

As of March 28, the petition has collected over 1,000 signatures.


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