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‘A step in the right direction’: UA to increase minimum wage for staff, student workers in July

Faridat+Mustapha+%28left%29+helps+a+customer+at+Arizona+Market+in+the+University+of+Arizonas+Student+Union+Memorial+Center.
Erika Howlett

Faridat Mustapha (left) helps a customer at Arizona Market in the University of Arizona’s Student Union Memorial Center.

Many University of Arizona employees will soon be able to count on extra money in their paychecks thanks to an upcoming increase in campus workers’ minimum wage. As of July 1, 2023, the minimum hourly wage will be $15.00 for university staff and $14.50 for student workers. 

This change comes as a result of Proposition 206, which Tucson voters approved in November 2021. The increase to $15 per hour is not mandated until 2025, but the university decided to implement the raise sooner. 

United Campus Workers of Arizona, the workers’ union that represents the UA and Arizona State University, is pleased with this progress. Their statement on Twitter promised a commitment to continuing the fight for fair wages.

“It’s a step in the right direction,” Sandra Soto, a professor in the UA gender and women’s studies department and the president of UCWAZ said. “We didn’t expect for the administration to move towards $15 an hour until 2025.”

This move also brought up further conversation about livable wage in Arizona.

“We’re happy about how it’s taking place before 2025, but we need especially hourly workers to make more than $15 an hour,” Soto said. 

The minimum wage on campus has been rising steadily in past years. At the beginning of this year, the minimum pay for student workers was raised from $13.00 to $13.85 per hour. But due to inflation and rising rents, even these increases might not be enough. 

“The rents in Tucson have just skyrocketed,” Soto said. “There is a real crisis right now in Tucson for affordable housing.” 

UCWAZ is running a campaign called $25 by ‘25, which demands a $25 per hour minimum wage by 2025. The union is currently in the process of working with labor unions in other states, discussing how to advocate for higher wages.

That number is based on MIT’s living wage calculator, which currently says that a single adult in Tucson with one child would need to earn over $33 an hour to make a living wage. 

While it may be a long way off from $25 per hour, Soto said she still believes this upcoming raise will be significant.

“It’ll have a bit of an impact,” she said. “At [the UA] for instance, there are a lot of employees that make less than $15 an hour.”

UA student worker Lauren Bolton agreed. Bolton is a sophomore communication major who is working in the Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid for her second year. 

“Even though for some people it’s just a small increase, for students like me who use the paycheck I receive to buy groceries, pay rent, pay for utilities, just hearing that there’s an increase is very exciting,” Bolton said. 

Bolton has heard of the petition for $25 per hour and is encouraged that people, students included, are advocating for higher pay, even if the progress seems slow-moving. 

“Students receiving pay that can reflect their cost of living is a goal we should be striving for,” Bolton said.

Faridat Mustapha is a junior studying public health, as well as a cashier at Arizona Market in the Student Union Memorial Center. She was glad to be making more money, pointing out that many students have to work a lot of hours to support themselves on current wages.

“I feel like for some people’s needs, they have to work a lot more because the pay is kind of low,” Mustapha said.

Marcus David, a junior finance major who works at the UA BookStore, also thinks the raise is coming at a fitting time. 

“I think it just makes it a little more reasonable, in terms of it’s more competitive to what other jobs are paying,” David said. “$14.50 brings it a little closer to what it should be.”


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