Fight for $15 minimum wage, increased adjunct pay, hits campus

Hundreds of people march down Pleasant Street SE towards McDonald's in Dinkytown in a protest to raise Minneapolis' minimum wage to $15 per hour on Wednesday.

Holly Peterson

Hundreds of people march down Pleasant Street SE towards McDonald’s in Dinkytown in a protest to raise Minneapolis’ minimum wage to $15 per hour on Wednesday.

More than 600 people gathered outside Dinkytown McDonald’s Wednesday to join low-wage workers across the country rallying to increase the minimum wage. 
 
University of Minnesota students, staff and faculty members also joined protesters for a Tax Day rally that had many people demanding better pay for adjuncts and custodial staff.
 
Erin Trapp, a senior lecturer for the Department of Cultural Studies and Comparative Literature, said she attended both to support better wages for workers as well as demand better treatment of adjunct faculty. 
 
Trapp rallied with other faculty members, both adjunct and tenure-track, as a group called University of Minnesota Academics United, an organization affiliated with Service Employees International Union — one of the country’s largest labor unions.
 
Trapp said the group is requesting adjunct instructors be paid $15,000 per course, as well as receive better job security.
 
“If it were a $15,000 per-class minimum, then adjuncts would be able to teach two classes per semester and earn $60,000 [per year],” Trapp said. “For myself, supporting two kids, the living wage in Minnesota is $54,000.” 
 
The rally started outside of Northrop Auditorium, where several speakers gave speeches about workers’ rights. Protesters then marched to McDonald’s to join fast-food employees advocating to increase minimum wage in the state to $15 an hour.
 
Student workers also gathered at the event to demand wage increases for both on- and off-campus jobs.
 
Lauren Skager, a University student and Minnesota Public Interest Research Group member, said she believed increasing the minimum wage is especially important for students to be able to afford rising housing costs.
 
Laura Lomax, an accounting senior, said she wasn’t paid enough as an intern for the Center for Transportation Studies to afford her housing costs before she moved 45 minutes away from campus, where housing is cheaper.
 
“As a student, I have experienced a lot of stress from not having enough money to work with,” Lomax said.
 
Cherrene Horazuk, president of a University clerical workers union, said in a speech that union members should fight for pay increases. 
 
“Fifteen years ago, our starting salaries at the ‘U’ were $7 an hour. We stood up and said, ‘That’s not enough; we deserve more.’ … We are stronger when we stand up together.” said Horazuk during her speech.
 
The protest was led by 15 Now, a group dedicated to raising the minimum wage across the nation. Other groups at the event included MPIRG and Teamsters Local 
320.
 
Ty Moore, a national organizer for 15 Now, said though the protest had a high turnout, he hopes city officials will respond to the concerns demonstrators raised. 
 
“I think it will have a powerful impact on City Council as they move to consider raising the minimum wage,” he said.