MEMPHIS, Tenn. (localmemphis.com) – The University of Memphis will get one million dollars after all for its new pool project. County commissioners voted to override Mayor Lee Harris’ veto. Harris vetoed the funding because not all workers at the U of M are earning a living wage.
Commissioners voted 12-1 to fund the University of Memphis’ swimming pool renovations. A union organizer who has been fighting for livable wages says they are disappointed by the vote.
“We were hoping that the Shelby County Commissioners voted in a way that brought the University of Memphis into more alignment with their values around raising their own employees pay 15 dollars an hour,” said Jayanni Webster, an organizer for United Campus Workers. “While it is disappointing, we have not lost hope. “
The union has pushed for a livable wage increase for years. The university says it plans to make it happen in two years but must factor two things.
“The variability of not knowing what the number is going to be from the state what the enrollment numbers are telling us,” said Ted Townsend, the University of Memphis’ chief economic development officer. “We have to consider that every annual year when we process the budget.”
Meanwhile, the union says they will keep fighting for the livable wage.
“We just would like some thoughtful accountability from the university after 7 and a half years after asking for a wage that won’t leave people in poverty,” said Webster.
A $15 wage amount for county workers did pass. An amended version dropped a line urging Shelby County Schools to pay 15 dollars an hour to nutritional service workers.
“Are these the only employees being affected or are there more?” Shelby County Commissioner Edmund Ford Jr. asked at the meeting. “Ladies and gentlemen there are more.”
Monday night was only the first reading of the livable wage ordinance. The law will take effect 15 days after the final one.
The county commission also passed an ordinance, making July 16 Ida B Wells-Barnett Day. Wells-Barnett was an African American woman who was born into slavery and then became a civil rights leader who reported for a Memphis newspaper and helped found the NAACP.