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Workers at University of Memphis win critical step towards Living Wage

University employees voted at their most recent union convention to formally join the nationwide "Fight For $15" movement. News of the University of Memphis's plans confirm what workers across the country are seeing. The tide has turned in the fight for living wages, with cities like Seattle passing $15 minimum wage ordinances, and many others following suit. Across Tennessee campus employees have come together with fast food workers with Show Me $15 and Memph15, with teachers, faith leaders, the State Conference of the NAACP, and many others to build a Moral Movement to Put the People First, demanding an increase in the minimum wage, fully-funded public education, and democratic rights. 

Rally for living wages at University of Memphis with Councilman Lee Harris (left) April 2013. Campus workers have lead campaigns for living wages and their union since September 2010
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"Tennessee lags a point and a half behind the national unemployment rate. At the same time states and cities that have increased the minimum wage have lead all others in job growth and economic development," says UCW-CWA statewide President Tom Anderson. Anderson, a buyer in Facilities Services at UTK continued, "Our public higher education institutions are major employers in communities all across our great state. That is part of why living wage campaigns here are seeing such support for students and community members. This is about demanding an economy that works for working people, and not just the top wage earners. I applaud President Rudd's decision to move forward this recommendation, and look forward to congratulating the Chancellor and members of the Board of Regents on its passage."

"President Rudd has taken an important step and shown real leadership on this issue. Moments like this stay with you, and sustain you for the long hall. Being from Memphis, the push for civil rights did not end with Brown versus Board of Education, it didn't end with the Civil Rights Act or the Voting Rights Act, but each of those were critical. We have to make sure that all campus employees, at Aramark and other contractors, the adjuncts, the graduate students get this and that we keep fighting for $15 like the McDonalds workers are fighting for. I'm fired back up, I'm ready to speak!"


Full Text of President Rudd's email to all staff and faculty:

Subject: Exciting News: Increase of UofM Minimum Salary

For the past several months, we have been evaluating employee salaries and looking for ways to create an affordable living wage for our lowest paid employees. While we can all agree that we have experienced challenging times, thanks to your hard work and dedication we have made great progress in creating efficiencies and positioning the University for continued growth. I am pleased to announce that the University of Memphis has requested Tennessee Board of Regents’ approval to increase the minimum salary for all employees in regular, benefits-eligible positions to $10.10 per hour, effective January 2015. This increase is in line with a recent executive order to raise the salaries of federal service workers to this same amount.  It also represents a 14% increase for some of our lowest paid employees and is over 28% higher than the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.

Taking this step is a demonstration of the University’s commitment to compensate our employees adequately.  Employees will also continue to receive longevity pay between $300 and $3,000 per year, based on their years of service to the University and the State of Tennessee. We are excited about this increase and are committed to continuing to evaluate the University’s compensation structure and making additional changes as funds permit.

Thank you for making the University of Memphis a great place to work and a top employer in Memphis. Your dedication and hard work makes us strong and positions our students to better compete in this global economy.

If you have any questions, please contact the Department of Human Resources at

Go Tigers!

M. David Rudd | President

Distinguished University Professor
University of Memphis
341 Administration Building
Memphis, TN 38152

ph: 901-678-2234 | fax: 901-678-5065 | Cell: 901-619-1769