Board Approves Pay Raise for Student Workers

 On October 3rd, Student Trustee Chase Matthews (center) discusses with the Vice President of Human Resources, Marcia Wade (right) on raising the minimum wage for student workers at Santa Monica College to be the same as the city of Santa Monica, California. The Board of Trustees meet once a month in the SMC Business Building, room 117. (Photo by Ethan Lauren)

Santa Monica College student workers should look forward to next year, as the school's board of trustees approved a recommendation to increase the minimum wage from $10.50 to $12 an hour starting Jan. 1, 2018.

A.S. Vice President Edgar Gonzalez was present at the board meeting with members of the Fight for $15, a group that advocates for a $15 minimum wage. A member from the group made a public comment asking the board to approve the wage increase.

The idea had been brought up by Student Trustee Chase Matthews at the October board meeting as an information item, and although there was positive feedback from the board, they requested further study into the budget implications of a minimum wage increase. 

Marcia Wade, Vice President of Human Resources, put together a report at the October meeting, but Matthews said she really dove deep the second time around.

"From October to December, she really put together an outstanding report that included demographics of student workers, the grade distribution of student workers, the student success correlation with hours worked on campus... it was just an amazing report," Matthews said. "Through her research, the Department of Human Resources recommended that the district does in fact align their pay schedule with that of the city of Santa Monica."

The board was receptive to the facts presented in the report and voted to approve the increase in minimum wage to $12 an hour; wages were originally supposed to rise from $10.50 to $11 an hour under the California state schedule, but now the college will follow the City schedule set forth by a January city ordinance.

Members of the board had previously questioned the implications of such a raise, and the district will decide whether or not they plan to decrease the hours worked per student or reduce the number of workers to balance out the increased cost of the higher wage.

"There is a potential that the effect could result in a decrease in the number of student workers naturally because there's a limited amount of money, so that is a consequence of doing this," Matthews said. But I do believe that regardless of how many student workers we have, we do owe them the proper living wage. I do believe also that the college is aware of this and that, hopefully they will figure out a way to ensure that no student workers lose their job."

SMC President Kathryn Jeffery was happy to see the vote pass, and commended Matthews during the meeting for bringing the issue to the attention of the board.

Matthews spoke highly about his experience working on this issue, and how it felt to have his idea pass through the board and be approved.

"It makes me feel that all the time and effort I spend to further the equity and success of students is worth it," Matthews said. "And I'm happy that I've been able to assist students in getting not only what they deserve, but what is best for them."