Work It Out: The case for fifteen dollars
On the last day of December of this year, Long Island’s minimum wage will go up to $13 per hour, as part of a plan to eventually bring the minimum wage across New York up to $15. So why are Hofstra students still making as low as $9 an hour?
It’s more expensive than ever to live at Hofstra, and living in the surrounding area isn’t cheap either. My rent is $750 every month with five roommates, and among my friends, I pay less than anyone I know. In order to afford that, my electric bill and enough food for a month, I need to work about 27 hours per week at my summer wage of $9. Between class, homework, club and organization obligations and sleeping, I barely have time for anything else, even without adding that much work into the mix. Of course, there are plenty of students that manage it, and props to them for it! But we shouldn’t have to.
The concept of a living wage is essentially that a person working full time on this wage would be able to afford basic expenses such as housing, food, bills, etc. The Living Wage Calculator, created by Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Dr. Amy Glasmeier, estimates that a living wage to support one adult in Nassau County clocks in at $15.53, which is just about on par with New York’s eventual minimum wage goal.
Student workers might not be full time, and they shouldn’t need to be in order to afford to keep going to school, but a living wage is just as important to us. Fifty-five percent of the Hofstra student body commutes, and a huge chunk of us live in the neighborhoods surrounding campus by renting out houses with a bunch of roommates. Of everyone I know who rents, I have the least on my plate every month – some of my friends pay $800 for rent, others pay for gas and water as well as electricity. Even commuters that don’t rent have expenses, paying for gas to drive to campus and back every day, the ever-increasing LIRR fare and even a monthly bus pass. Everyone, even students that live on campus, knows how expensive it can be to pay for things like food, textbooks and whatever portions of tuition financial aid doesn’t cover.
Nobody should be forced to work 30 hours every week on top of going to class. Raising the student minimum wage to Long Island’s $15 to match a livable wage is necessary. If you stepped five feet off campus, it would be illegal to get paid only $9 an hour. So why is it fine for students to get paid so little?
Things like the Pride Pantry, located in the Health and Wellness Center room 105, open Wednesdays during Common Hour and Thursdays from 4:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m., and the student-run GoFeedMe Facebook group fill in necessary gaps where Hofstra’s food prices leave those unable to afford to eat on campus struggling to get full meals. I’m glad they exist, but the reality is they’re not enough. No student should be left to worry if they’ll be able to afford rent while balancing homework, sleep and leisure time. No student should work themselves half to death in order to be able to afford to go to school or pay their bills.
A livable wage is not only what student workers at Hofstra need, it’s what we deserve. Without us RSRs, office aides, tech lab staff, AV and so much more, the university would grind to a halt. It’s about time that Hofstra at least pay us minimum wage.
Work It Out is a labor rights column written by Elliot Colloton, a sophomore sociology major. This column aims to examine the life and rights of student workers on Hofstra’s campus.