EXCLUSIVE: LMU will increase base salary for staff; FM Defenders Offer Critical Response | New

Nona Pittman (pictured right) at a student protest on behalf of FM Workers.

LMU plans to increase hourly pay from $16 to $19.50 for its staff, including facilities management (FM) employees, a university news release announced Aug. 26. The change was prompted by the results of a pay study conducted by the University following a student-led protest on April 25. Later that month, students, staff and faculty marched from the Lair Marketplace to the office of President Timothy Law Snyder, Ph.D., at University Hall to protest after a letter written by anonymous FM workers with Anna Harrison, a theology professor, voiced FM workers’ concerns over wages.

“These workers, who received the lowest wages, are on the front line, protecting the health of all of us during the pandemic that has overwhelmed us for more than two years. For these reasons, they should not just be considered essential workers in words: they should be compensated with a dignified and fair wage of at least $21 an hour,” the original letter read.

As part of an ongoing effort to support FM workers, a group of students, staff and faculty called FM Solidarity wrote another open letter in response to FM’s base pay increase. the University.

“Last spring, these students, along with staff and faculty, spoke out against poverty wages on campus in solidarity with facility management workers. Our students have a lot to teach the LMU community about living our social justice mission, and alongside them, we must do more: LMU continues to deny its employees a fair minimum wage of $21 an hour” , we read in the last letter.

The University press release outlines how the base pay for University employees will become $19.50 per hour in October 2022. The press release also acknowledges the University benefits for employees such as Healthcare ; University health care contributions for each employee are estimated at $6.37 per hour. That benefit, plus base pay, equals a total living wage of $25.52 per hour, according to University calculations. The value of other benefits such as “dental, vision, life, vacation pay, sick leave, vacation, and tuition rebate” are not included in this $25.52.

While the University will offer $25.52 as a living wage, FM Solidarity’s request was for a minimum wage of $21. The Global Living Wage Coalition (GLWC) defines a living wage as: “The compensation received for a standard week of work by a worker in a particular location sufficient to provide a decent standard of living for the worker and his or her family.” While a living wage may include the estimated value of benefits provided, a minimum wage or base pay is the salary due to employees regardless of other benefits. Since LMU’s wage increase will raise staff wages to $19.50 before benefits, FM Solidarity’s demand for an hourly wage of $21 minimum wage was not met.

The University’s press release acknowledges the discrepancies that can arise when determining what constitutes a living wage. The statement said, “While living wage definitions vary, many standards are calculated by combining base pay with employer-paid health care benefits.” By that standard, according to the City of Los Angeles, LMU’s pay raise provides a living wage. The city’s Living Wage Ordinance also defines a living wage and states that employers must offer base pay of $16.04 per hour plus $1.04 per hour of health care benefits or 17.29 $ per hour without health care benefits in order to pay their employees a living wage. With the wage increase taking effect in October, LMU will exceed the city’s living wage standard. However, FM Solidarity defines a living wage as an hourly minimum wage of $21, regardless of benefits; LMU’s salary increase will not reach this amount.

“It’s not $21. [Snyder] …is already paid $600,000 a year. I can’t even imagine having that. I can’t even imagine making that much money,” said Nona Pittman, a double major in African American Studies and Communication Studies and ASLMU Communications Manager. “We could take it out of it and give it to the FM workers.”

The new base rate of pay was determined based on the results of a compensation study conducted by Human Resources. “The comprehensive compensation study looked at the salaries of more than 100 benchmark positions at LMU and other institutions in the region,” said Mason Stockstill, acting director of media and public relations at LMU. “He also weighed economic conditions, the competitive job market and external research on living wages, as well as University finances, benefits offerings and tax planning for our future.”

Harrison, a longtime FM Workers advocate, said the press release was about more than trust in the student body. “This threatening language in LMU’s press release, which suggests tuition fees will rise if students sustain fair wages, is deeply cynical and undermines community building at LMU,” she said.

Regarding tuition, the press release shared, “These processes and obligations require careful consideration and an understanding that our financial resources are all interconnected. Expenses are paid for by our tuition income, and tuition fees are paid for by our students and their families.

According to Pittman, the focus on tuition is misguided. “Are these administrators not paid through us? It is absolutely absurd to blame students as the reason FM workers are not being paid,” she said.

An anonymous LMU faculty member believes this point actively shifts the blame onto the students. “The obscene attempt by LMU administrators, who earn hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, to pit students against economically vulnerable workers will not work,” they said. “LMU administrators would do well to remember the last verse of the student protest chant in the spring of 2022: ‘Lies and tricks will not divide!’ Lions side by side!”

In response to these claims, Stockstill said: “We also need to be vigilant about managing our budget responsibly, the vast majority of which comes from student tuition fees. This includes funding for many competing needs,” he noted.

For context, in the 2020-2021 academic year, the total undergraduate tuition cost was $51,820. That year, salaries and wages for all employees accounted for 48.67% of the University’s total operating expenses. The University’s financial data is publicly available here.

Despite his worries, Pittman also celebrated the pay raise. “I think we need to celebrate the small steps because the reality is there was absolutely nothing LMU could have done. When you look at the greatest social justice advocates, they celebrated those small victories,” she said. said “We need to both celebrate and move forward, not one or the other.”

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