- The University of Virginia (UVA) will begin paying all full-time, benefits-eligible employees in its academic division and medical center a minimum of $15 an hour starting in January, the university announced.
- The increase will affect about 1,400 employees and will cost UVA roughly $3.5 million each year, with another $500,000 for adjustments for employees earning between $15 and $16.25 per hour. The university said it will use "existing resources" to fund the change, requiring it to identify "cost savings and efficiencies."
- UVA is also exploring how to raise its contracted workers' wages to $15 an hour, as the state has not similarly increased its minimum wage. Forty percent of its full-time workers earning less than $15 per hour are contractors.
The move comes a little more than a week after a working group released a report recommending UVA make raising wages one of its top priorities. It noted nearly 2,400 university employees make less than $15 an hour.
Members of the working group praised the university for taking action so soon after the report was made public, saying wage increases will be critical for university employees. The current base wage at the university is $12.75 per hour, meaning the lowest-paid employees will see a gross annual raise of $4,500.
Even so, UVA student group the Living Wage Campaign said the increases don't go far enough. The group wants UVA to provide workers with at least $16.84 an hour, the local CBS affiliate reported, a figure the group contends is the living wage for Charlottesville, Virginia — where UVA is located — based off estimates from the Economic Policy Institute. A living wage is defined as the minimum income required to satisfy one's basic needs, such as for food and shelter.
Another calculator, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, puts the living wage for the Charlottesville area between $12.36 an hour for one adult and $19.50 for two adults and three children.
UVA joins several other public and private universities that have moved to raise wages to $15 for college employees or university-affiliated medical staff over the past few years. Those changes have been brought about by forces such as institutional policy changes and collective bargaining agreements, according to the National Employment Law Project.
The University of California System was among the first institutions to adopt a $15 minimum wage policy. It announced in July 2015 that it was phasing in pay increases that would raise wages to that amount by 2017. The system also said it would ensure its contractors were paying their employees at least the university's new minimum. It planned to use "non-core funds," such as those from the bookstore and food services (and not connected to tuition and fees), to pay for the wage increases.
Likewise, in 2016 New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that some 30,000 employees in the State University of New York System would see their wages rise to at least $15 an hour by mid-2021. The estimated cost for the raises is about $28 million.
These and other institutions' moves stem from momentum behind gradually increasing hourly wages to $15 in cities and companies across the nation. For instance, Charlottesville is raising base wages to $15 an hour, as are Seattle, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. Companies like Target and Amazon have also followed suit.
The results of these initiatives have been mixed and have sparked debate. For instance, University of Washington researchers who studied Seattle's wage hike concluded it "delivered higher pay to experienced workers at the cost of reduced opportunity for the inexperienced," though critics have argued there were flaws in their methodology.