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USC Workers Rally For Higher Wages

Yingzhi Yang |
November 12, 2014 | 5:57 p.m. PST

Staff Reporter

USC workers protest their wage and contracts. (Yingzhi Yang/Neon Tommy)
USC workers protest their wage and contracts. (Yingzhi Yang/Neon Tommy)
University of Southern California workers marched Wednesday to demand respect and an increase in wages.

“The average yearly wages for the USC hospitality workers are $18,800, so a lot of them [live] below the poverty line,”  said Maria Rodriguez, a member of Student Coalition Against Labor Exploitation, a USC student organization participating in the protest. “They deserve this right to have a higher wage.”

Nicole Smith, a 31-year-old USC hospitality worker and mother, whose daughter will be two this month, is struggling to make ends meet. 

Smith has been a chef for the Ronald Tutor Campus Center for six years. Her hourly wage is $11.65. 

“I don’t think it’s right because somebody that’s been here for eleven years is getting paid only five cents more than me,” Smith said. “If you work for UCLA, you are getting sixteen dollars an hour.” 

“Right now, I don’t even get eight hours a day, only seven and a half hours,” Smith continued. During the summer, from June until August, she was given five work hours a day. “Nobody can survive by five hours a day.”

Due to her income situation, Smith still has to live with her mom.

“I want to have my own room, but I cannot afford to rent an apartment by the hourly wage they pay me,” she said as she started to cry. 

She spends little money on herself because she tries to save as much as she can.

“You never know when my daughter is gonna need something,” said Smith. Her daughter's expenses, including daycare, food and diapers leave little money in her pocket.

Smith applied for a lot of different jobs, but no one hired her, saying she lacked experience as well as a college degree. 

The contract between the university and hospitality workers expired in the summer and the workers have been renegotiating the terms for the past six months. USC has not met their demands.  

“I don’t know why [USC hasn’t agreed to raise wages], especially since it’s a university where the cost of tuition, including room and board is $67,761, but pays their workers under $19,000 a year,” Rodriguez said. “The contract extension ended this past week, so it really comes to a situation where they need to take action." 

“Nobody knows what’s going on inside,” Smith said, pointing at the Ronald Tutor Campus Center. “We want to be heard.”

Reach Staff Reporter Yingzhi Yang here. Follow her on Twitter here.



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