Student Petition Prompts UT To Study Low Paying Jobs

KNOXVILLE (AP) — The University of Tennessee Board of Trustees plans to evaluate the salaries of the system’s lowest-paid workers following a petition from a student group.

During a meeting earlier this month, UT President John Petersen said the administration will provide the board with salary information in March.

‘‘Let’s do a peer study on what we should be paying our housekeepers, janitors and those that are doing so much to make this university a success as well,’’ said UT Board Trustee Karl Schledwitz.

The Progressive Student Alliance, a student organization, sought the study from the board and held a petition drive asking that the university provide a ‘‘living wage.’’ The group defines the wage as ‘‘a locally calculated wage that seeks to provide workers in that community the opportunity to live outside of poverty and meet their needs.’’

At Vanderbilt University, unionized workers’ fight to get a salary increase attracted national attention with actor Danny Glover and presidential candidate John Edwards calling for a living wage at the private university.

Gabby Kendall, a UT graduate student and PSA member, wanted board trustees to know what employees were making.

‘‘They’re here talking about how they want to budget their money, and so I think it’s important for them to consider priorities in terms of like, you know, maybe we need a new jet, but people need to be able to pay their bills,’’ she said.

The United Campus Workers-Communications Workers of America is calling for at least a 4 percent for UT employees and a minimum raise of $1,500 for the lowest-paid workers.

Petersen noted that since he has been president, the university addressed salary concerns ‘‘in terms of ensuring there is a raise.’’

Some custodial jobs at UT are contracted out, so the university has no control over their salaries, Petersen said.

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