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The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

Community members join the Fight for $15

Community members join the Fight for $15

Twenty-four Guilford community members boarded a bus to Raleigh to demand living wages at the Fight for $15 rally on April 15.

The steady flow of rain did not dampen the energy buzzing among rally attendees gathered in the Shaw University quad. The rally was part of a national movement of protests and walkouts, all in the name of union rights and a higher minimum wage.

The Fight for $15 movement began in 2012 when hundreds of fast food workers went on strike in New York. Since then, workers across the country have joined the protest, demanding better wages and worker protections.

Sporting signs with sayings like “NC can’t survive on $7.25” and “We have nothing to lose but our chains,” the protesters marched through Shaw and out onto the streets of Raleigh.

“After college, a lot of students can’t find the jobs they expected and have to (work) minimum wage jobs,” said Mariah Tillman, a protester and first-year at North Carolina A&T State University. “Also you (have to) pay back student loans. By working (minimum wage) jobs you won’t be able to pay off the loans quickly, and interest will build up.”

The hard truth about minimum wage in America is that it simply is not enough to support a working class family.

According to research done at MIT, two working adults with two children would need to work over three full-time minimum-wage jobs to support their family. That is the equivalent of 68 hours of work each week per adult. Salaried workers log around 40 – 44 hours a week.

“I believe in increasing the minimum wage because I work three minimum wage jobs to support myself,” said junior Walid Mosarsaa. “Increasing minimum wage would help me focus on my studies.”

The march also stopped in front of a memorial for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, a civil rights group that originated at Shaw and played a major part in the Civil Rights Movement. Speakers commemorated SNCC’s accomplishments, including voter registration efforts and assisting the organization of the 1963 March on Washington. April 15 marked 55 years since the historic committee’s inception.

Before the Raleigh protest, Guilford students and staff gathered in front of Hendricks Hall for a pre-rally to connect the goals of the Fight for $15 movement with struggles that the Guilford community currently faces.

Despite large bonuses to administrators, Guilford’s faculty remains the lowest paid among comparable colleges in North Carolina.

Matthew Armstrong, former adjunct instructor of English, spoke at the pre-rally regarding the pay gap between administrators and students.

“I am poor,” said Armstrong in his speech. “I have taught at UNCG, Greensboro College, North Carolina A&T, Guilford Tech and Guilford College. Everywhere, the story’s the same. The adjunct professors, the people who teach the biggest classes, are paid the least.

“When students see their colleges exploiting adjuncts, we send those young people a powerful message: certain people don’t matter. Instead of finding money in the bloated salaries of administrators … we’re just laying people off like we’ll be doing at Guilford College next Fall.”

Instructor of English Caroline McAlister spoke out about working part-time for Guilford for the past 16 years. This year, McAlister was offered a full-time position in the English department. However, now that the budget cuts have hit, she is becoming the first in the department to be cut back to part-time, even though other full-time non-tenure-track instructors  have been at Guilford for less time.

“My family was finally able to be middle class,” McAlister said at the pre-rally. “Adjunct professors have no protection. I am 55 years old, and by cutting my position, they are taking away my retirement benefits and my family’s financial security.”

CCE sophomore Luvinia Carter was disheartened to hear the stories of her professors.

“It’s our adjuncts who are giving us the tools to go out and meet the public,” said Carter. “They have more than earned their right to decent pay. Caroline and Matt have pushed me towards critical thinking. You would think that would count for something.”

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