$9.50 per hour, plus benefits.
Starting June 30, this will be the base pay for UT employees campus-wide. However, some believe this is not enough.
On Wednesday afternoon, more than 30 students staged an action led by the Living Wage Coalition. The coalition is composed of the Progressive Student Alliance and 16 other student organizations, working in cooperation with the United Campus Workers union. The campaign is working towards more fair wages and treatment for the faculty and staff of UT.
Prior to the action, participants representing 10 of the organizations met in Circle Park to voice their concerns.
"Everyone had their signs, looked over each others' letters, and were all excited and pumped," said Jasmine Taylor, a sophomore in political science.
When all had gathered, the students split into two groups and made their way into the office of Chancellor Jimmy Cheek. Some participants came into the building with a banner representing the LWC before others followed, presenting a letter of support from each organization to the receptionist.
Cheek and his secretary were both absent.
"I don't think it's very often for 30 students to come into the chancellor's office at once, fill the room and deliver several letters," said Robert Naylor, a junior in global studies and a leader of the LWC. "He'll know that there's student support behind us."
The Living Wage Coalition has been attempting to meet with Cheek regarding their concerns, namely a raise in the starting wage for a UT worker to $12.50 an hour, including benefits. Organizers wrote a letter asking the chancellor to meet with them regarding this issue, but their request was denied; the UCW is not considered to be a "recognized organization" speaking on employees' behalf.
Cheek's response to the letter, written on Feb. 14, cited several efforts by the university to foster better conditions for its employees.
With the pairing of the newly raised starting wage and a "comprehensive benefits package," Cheek stated in his response that he believes UT is providing compensation competitive to the Knoxville employment market in addition to the ongoing "insourcing" of custodial staff, which has created 100 new jobs.
Tom Anderson, the president of United Campus Workers, feels as though the university could do more for its workers.
"I commend the university in recognizing that Tennessee's base minimum wage isn't enough, and the raise is in the right direction," Anderson said. "However, this rate is short of a pay where the workers that ensure the health and safety of this campus can live comfortably on."
The UCW defines a "living wage" as the minimum income allowing workers to cover their family's living expenses while leaving some excess each month for miscellaneous costs like transportation, the upbringing of their children and savings.
The union has gauged this pay rate at $12.50, with benefits, based on national and Knoxville-area economic studies regarding the cost of living.
"It's life as a human without the need of working 80 hours a week and the worry of bankruptcy or homelessness," Anderson said.
Despite the organization's failure to meet with Cheek, Naylor said he believes the LWC's voice has been heard.
"We feel as though this campaign has grown," Naylor said, "and that we've started a conversation within the student body about the treatment of our workers."