COLUMBIA, S.C. — On Tuesday, staff members for the University of South Carolina gathered at the South Carolina state house, demanding the minimum wage be raised to $15 an hour.
Some full-time staff members are being paid $12 an hour. With rising costs of housing, gas, and other goods—USC members said they are struggling to survive.
"Some workers here on campus are forced to choose between getting back and forth to work, or if they're going to be able to eat that week," said Timothy Simmons, a librarian at the university. "The federal minimum wage has not increased since 2009, and so workers can't count on federal increase to account for the shortfall that all the wage workers are experiencing right now."
USC Professor, Dr. Joshua Cooper said a higher pay wage will provide a more stable environment for staff and students.
"It's a tremendous indignity," Dr. Cooper said. "They say the university's working conditions are the student's working conditions. If we intend to keep a top rate university in our state, we need to pay our workers a wage that allows them to survive and come to work happy and healthy."
In a statement from USC, "The University of South Carolina values all employees and we’ve made a concerted effort over the past year to attract and retain staff, including a recent broad-based salary adjustment for our lowest paid workers. These efforts are ongoing, and we welcome the continued input from organizations across our campus."
Some state lawmakers are also calling for a change, including Representative Jerry Govan, Representative Wendy Brawley, and Representative Jermaine Johnson.
"An individual must work an entire hour and still can't afford two gallons of gas," Rep. Johnson said. "I need you all to understand exactly what I'm talking about here, somebody will have to work an entire day, just to get a full tank of gas. That is an absolute shame. Understand what just happened recently in our flagship institution. We paid a football coach, $10M not to come to South Carolina— but to leave. Just recently we paid a basketball coach $3M, not to come—but to leave! This money easily could've been distributed to our workers here at the University of South Carolina."
Representative Anne E. McDaniel is also supporting a pay raise for university staff.
"We do give USC millions of dollars," Rep. McDaniel said. "Millions, more than we give to a lot of other institutions. I think the money is there. Another $5 an hour for approximately 500 individuals a year, will not do a lot of damage to the budget."
During the rally, lawmakers said they are looking at legislation to raise the state's minimum wage.