from Wisconsin State Journal, Sunday, October 16, 2005

Vote May Hike Pay For Ltes

Uw-madison Students Back A Living Wage For Certain Campus Employees.


Some limited-term employees at UW-Madison operations such as Memorial Union may be in line for higher wages.

At least, that's what students said they want in approving by a 2-to-1 margin a referendum calling for LTEs at campus operations that receive student funds to be paid a so-called living wage.

The vote last week was 1,379 to 612.

But it's not clear if the university is required to follow through.

Bill Richner, assistant vice chancellor for budget planning and analysis, said he's waiting for a response from Chancellor John Wiley on the issue.

"The chancellor has primary responsibility for these auxiliary budgets, as written in UW System policy," Richner said.

Leaders of the effort say it will raise wages for about 300 full-time LTEs and hundreds of part-time workers by about $3 an hour, from $7.25 to $10.23 an hour. Employees at Memorial Union, Union South, campus recreational facilities and University Health Service would be affected.

The Wisconsin Union has frozen full-time hiring and in its place taken on limited-term employees "who make a fraction of what a full-time employee makes," said Mike Imbrogno, treasurer of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 171 in Madison.

"This has been a thorn in our side for a long time," Imbrogno said.

The higher wages would take effect in the next budget cycle, said Ashok Kumar, a member of the Student Labor Action Coalition, which initiated the vote.

"This is precedent-setting for the entire country," Kumar said. "No (other) public universities have done this."

Union director Mark Guthier said LTEs are hired only for part-time jobs that students have not filled. He said if the pay increase goes through, it would affect student employees as well and would cost an additional $650,000 for the Wisconsin Union alone. The potential effects would depend on whether or not student segregated fees would be raised to cover the cost.

If not, "it would have to come out of our own operating revenue. That's a lot of additional products and services and food to sell," Guthier said.

Kumar believes the student vote is binding. "It's going to be implemented," he said.

Richner disagreed. "It is advisory," he said, but added, "we are certainly taking it seriously and reviewing its implications."

He said the referendum came as a surprise. "We didn't know it was going to be on the ballot and didn't get a copy of the language until after it was passed."

Kumar said the vote showed students believe LTE pay should be higher, even if students wind up shouldering part of the cost.

"They said, Maybe I'll spend 30 cents more on a hamburger to make sure that the people who are making it don't live in poverty,'" Kumar said.

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