The interim president of Kentucky State University is voluntarily giving up $90,000 of his own salary so that minimum wage workers on campus can receive a raise. An article on Vox reports that Raymond Burse says this is not a publicity stunt; this is to actually help real people. Those at KSU who were making only $7.25 an hour will receive a raise to $10.25 an hour, and that raise will remain in effect even after the university appoints a new president.
Vox also reports that other university presidents have done similar things. David Rowe, the president of Centenary College in Louisiana, raised that campus’ minimum wage to $10.10 per hour earlier this year. An article in The Huffington Post says that Rowe thought it was the best thing for those workers, and for the college as a whole.
Rowe also asked its two biggest vendors to raise their minimum wages, to ensure that nobody working on Centenary’s campus is earning less than $10.10 per hour.
How many people at the helm of an organization are willing to give up some of their pay to ensure that the workers on whose backs they stand earn a living wage? There are some, like McDonald’s CEO, and the Walton family, who could stand a little less money in their own wallets to ensure that their lowest-paid workers can still live. Instead, McDonald’s continues to squeeze its franchisees, and put rules in place that strictly control how franchisees hire, train, pay, and promote their employees. The Walton family just doesn’t seem to care at all.
One question that must be asked of those who insist that minimum wage jobs aren’t meant to support anybody is, if these employees aren’t working to try and support themselves, then why are they working? What’s the point of having any job if it’s not to support yourself and possibly a family? The truth is that the minimum wage came about because FDR had a problem with people working their lives away and living in abject poverty. For most of its history, one could, in fact, live on the minimum wage.
These days, 88 percent of workers who would benefit from raising the minimum wage are over the age of 20, and one-third are over the age of 40, according to the Economic Policy Institute. The average age of these employees is 35; old enough to be supporting (or trying to support) a family.
Mr. Burse’s original salary was almost $350,000 per year. He’s willing to give up almost one-third of that to ensure that all campus employees have a living wage. More people, particularly CEOs of highly profitable companies making eight figures a year or more, and complaining that they can’t afford to give raises to their workers, could stand to follow this man’s example.