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United Campus Workers of EKU petition against hiring freeze, staff/student worker wages

This article was originally published on ABC 36 News  on January 24th, 2023.

RICHMOND, Ky. (WTVQ) – Tuesday the United Campus Workers of EKU campaigned against what they describe as an unjust and unethical status quo at the university, following a soft hiring freeze they say was announced by the administration.
The freeze only added to the frustrations they already have about low staff and student worker wages.

“I think for a lot of us, it just got to the point where we knew something had to change and if it wasn’t going to come from the higher-ups we were going to have to make the change ourselves,” said EKU staff member and member of UCW, Seth Littrell.

The union was formed two years ago after some staff members were fed up with seeing cuts made, staff forced to take on more responsibilities than what they were being paid for, and some student workers being paid less than minimum wage.

One of those students is junior, Jess Wilson.

“I work a couple of different jobs on campus and one of them in particular I work long hours I don’t get extra pay for it and its kind of an extra issue the way that our pay works sometimes it counts against your financial aid and that’s an issue for a lot of people but beyond that, I have a lot of responsibilities I’m responsible for 54 people this year and if I just work my mandatory hours I’m making essentially 4 dollars an hour,” said Wilson.

She says she’s already picked up a second job and is worried she’ll have to get a third just to make ends meet.

“If I just work the jobs I have now and I don’t get another job I won’t be able to live on my own when I graduate I just hands down won’t be able to afford a place to live I won’t be able to afford to eat,” said Wilson.

Last year the union first petitioned for the cost of living wages to be higher, asking for a 10% raise.
Organizers say the university gave them only a 2% increase.

“The first petition I think we got 300 signatures on it, there’s a huge support for what’s going on here with faculty students staff even people in the community,” said Littrell.

Then at the end of 2022, organizers say the administration announced a soft hiring freeze which prompted a second petition Tuesday, encouraging others to stand beside them in the fight for livable wages.

“You know people have been discouraged from speaking up, people have been shamed for speaking up even though they’re just trying to pay their bills, and they’re just trying to put their kids through school. So it’s a cultural problem that has developed over a very long time but it needs to end because I worry about EKU as an institution if it doesn’t” added Littrell.