Students might have the opportunity to vote on raising Ohio State’s minimum wage in March’s Undergraduate Student Government general election.
Experts from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology calculated the living wage for a single adult in Franklin County to be $10.77 per hour. The minimum wage in Ohio for all workers, including those at Ohio State, is $8.30. One student group is trying to change that.
OSU Fight for 15, a student-run initiative, is calling for a $15 minimum hourly wage for all university employees, including those outsourced through contracts with other companies.
The group has been on The Oval getting signatures, said Patrick Cleary, a third-year in geography and economics.
As of Friday, 1,600 people had signed in support. USG is working to validate the petitions submitted by OSU Fight for 15. Pending approval, it will be Issue 1 on the March 5 ballot for students to vote on.
In order to get the issue on the USG ballot, petitioners are required to gather at least 1,000 signatures.
“Broadly, the goal is to get as many people as possible talking and thinking about labor and how important it is to this university,” Cleary said.
The initiative has expanded since its creation in Autumn Semester. Originally it comprised a few members of Young Democratic Socialists of America at Ohio State. It now includes individuals from varying social and political backgrounds.
Ohio State now employs more students than ever, most of them at minimum wage. As of November, the university staffed 17,776 active student-employees.
One of the central points of OSU Fight for 15 is university employees’ need for a living wage.
“It shouldn’t be this difficult to be a student at OSU,” said Val Nikaidoh, the co-chair of OSU Fight For 15 and a third-year in nursing. “I feel like the university can afford to raise wages. I feel like they should because I know a lot of students that are having difficulties making ends meet.”
OSU Fight for 15 is not just about the students, though, Cleary said.
“It’s also about the people who clean the libraries and dorms at night,” he said. “A lot of those workers are marginalized in other ways. A lot of them are immigrants, or refugees, or women or people of color, and they’re how we have this school. We can’t have class unless someone comes and shovels The Oval. I think that because of that, and because this university is so prosperous, we really should be taking care of those people.”
Should the student body vote in-favor of the minimum wage raise, the possibility of further action will fall on the university.
“The university respects the role of the Undergraduate Student Government General Assembly to act as the student voice on issues pertinent to campus affairs. Pursuant to our policy, should USG pass a resolution, we will carefully study the resolution and determine how to proceed,” said Ben Johnson, a university spokesman.
With the minimum of 1,000 signatures gathered, the issue of minimum wage at Ohio State will be on the March 5 ballot, along with student government candidates. Students will be able to vote in support or opposition of the wage increase, but the end result will essentially be a recommendation for university administration to consider.