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Carleton DSA to petition for $15 minimum wage

<rleton Democratic Socialists of America group (CDSA) has called on the administration to raise the minimum wage of student workers to $15/hr.

Student workers’ current minimum wage is $9.75/hr, ten cents above the statewide minimum of $9.65/hr.

“Student workers deserve to be paid an honest wage for the work they provide for the college. Instead, they are paid a sub-living wage and graduate with thousands in debt,” reads CDSA’s petition. The petition, released fifth week, currently has 105 signatures. The push for a wage increase is also being promoted as one of the Carls Talk Back demands (specifically: “Higher minimum wage for all workers by Winter 2019”).

CDSA, a chapter of the national Young Democratic Socialists of America organization, seeks to “educate and organize the community at Carleton and to play a helpful and principled role in the movement for social justice,” as written in their group’s description on Carleton’s website. The group was formed in Fall 2017 by Paul Kirk-Davidoff ’18 and others.

CDSA’s push for a minimum wage raise parallels the national “Fight for 15” movement, said Kirk-Davidoff. Cities and universities across the country, including Ohio State University, Columbia University and the University of Washington have raised their minimum wage to $15/hr.

“It’s pretty cool to see that happening, and we’re hoping to bring that to Carleton,” said Kirk-Davidoff.

“Carleton really has the choice over whether they’re going to be a leader on this issue, or if they’re going to be a real straggler,” he said.


“Carleton likes to think of itself as a really forward-thinking place. And here’s a great opportunity that we’re presenting for them.”


“Student workers are integral to the functioning of the college,” as stated in the petition. “We work because the college needs us to work,” said Kirk-Davidoff. “Without student workers, the college wouldn’t function… We provide essential services to the school.”

Kirk-Davidoff noted that a common argument against a $15/hr minimum wage is that student work is experiential. “But most jobs at Carleton are not experiential jobs,” he said. “Probably the biggest employer of student workers is the dining hall, and most Carleton students are not going to work in a dining hall after graduation, and I don’t think that’s what Carleton would say they’re preparing us for.”

The current minimum wage is not sufficient given the cost of tuition to Carleton, said Kirk-Davidoff. “It’s hurting students financially. College student debt is such a huge problem in the U.S. and at Carleton.”

Kirk-Davidoff also pointed to the significance of Swipe Out Hunger Café-Fasts, in which students donate their meal swipes to the Dean of Students’ Office emergency fund. “The fact that at Carleton College, ten percent of the school has food insecurity, and they’re only getting paid $9.75 an hour? Carleton is not paying students enough to be able to eat,” he said.

Carleton’s Budget Committee has raised the student worker minimum wage to $10 effective in the 2018-19 school year, said Kirk-Davidoff. Despite this small raise, CDSA is focused on the 15 number, he said. “We’re asking for $15 because we need $15. I don’t think that we deserve any less than $15.”

CDSA is currently in the process of reaching out to campus workers. At the CDSA meeting on Monday, Mar. 5, the group will introduce a resolution supporting a $15 minimum wage for all campus workers.

For now, the group is focused on petition signatures, said Kirk-Davidoff. “Of the people we’ve talked to, I’d say more than 80% have signed it. It’s just an issue of bringing it to people.”

After the petition has been more heavily circulated, CDSA’s next step is to present it to the administration, explained Kirk-Davidoff.

“The deal is, for four years, Carleton is supposed to take care of you as a student,” he said. “And they’re really not doing that right now. When they’re not paying us enough money to survive, it shows that they don’t really respect us as students and they don’t care about us.” 

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