Local News

UNC Employees Ask For Raise; Say They Are Being 'Nickel And Dimed'

Posted July 21, 2003 10:27 a.m. EDT

— For the past few weeks, a storm has brewed over a summer reading assignment at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The assigned book is about the plight of low-wage workers. Some public service workers said the real storm should be about their wages.

Housekeepers and groundskeepers at UNC and North Carolina State University want legislators to raise the state's minimum wage.

They have formed the Workers' Fairness Campaign, which calls for an increase in North Carolina's minimum wage from $5.15 to $10 an hour.

The group said that increase would keep many workers from having to take second jobs.

They also said now is a good time to push the issue since people are talking about the book, "Nickel and Dimed: On Not Getting By in America."

The book about the plight of low-wage workers is assigned reading for incoming freshmen, but some university employees said it could have far reaching implications.

"The issues they've chosen to speak about by choosing this book actually mean something more to people living on $17,000 a year," said David Brannigan, a UNC groundskeeper.

The workers asked state legislators for their support in writing. A few of them have done it, including Rep. Larry Bell of Sampson County.

Others, like Rep. Bill Daughtridge of Nash County, do not support raising the minimum wage, saying jobs could be lost.

"I'm concerned that if you artificially change the wage to $10 an hour, you would create unemployment in the low-wage area and these people need jobs and they want jobs," he said.

North Carolina's minimum wage of $5.15 is the same as the federal minimum wage. The state with the highest minimum wage right now is Washington at $7. Connecticut's rate will go from $6.90 to $7.10 next year.