The Low Wage Workers Summit

In Events, News, Philly Blog on February 17, 2015 at 10:53 am

by Wende Marshall

The Low Wage Workers Summit

Last month, I was honored to represent UAP at the historic Low Wage Workers Summit. The summit was sponsored by $15Now, a national organization committed to making 2015 the year of the $15 minimum wage, in collaboration with Fight for $15, the organization spearheading the struggle of fast food workers here in Philly and across the country. The summit brought together low-wage workers across sectors to strategize and to dream about the just world we are working to create.

Attended by taxi drivers, fast food workers, restaurant workers, catering staff, day laborers, immigrant rights and other community organizations, and an adjunct, the summit affirmed low-wage workers’ commitment to fight for a $15 minimum wage in Philadelphia and for the right to unionize. Demanding that we “thrive, not just survive,” participants envisioned a world in which public schools are well-funded and higher education is free, as are health care and contraception. Low-wage workers said that when we are respected and valued by our employers, we can lead “radiant” lives.

Because each of the unions or organizations involved in a campaign presented to the group, I had the opportunity to talk about the success of UAP’s fall campaign at Temple and our imminent election. I told my fellow workers that there were 15,000 adjuncts in the area, and that although many of us have advanced degrees, we are nonetheless low-wage workers. I explained that although adjuncts now comprise 75% of college instructors, our average pay is less than $25,000 annually, that we often rely on public assistance, struggle to make ends meet, have no job security or benefits, and have no recognized voice in our work places.

People were curious about the struggle of adjuncts. At the end of the summit several people approached me to thank me for coming and telling UAP’s story. One woman, a taxi driver’s wife said, “But, you are not really a low-wage worker. It’s just that you are low wage in relation to your years of education.” “No,” I assured her, “we really are low-wage workers, and we really are struggling, just like all the other workers at the summit.”

Wende Marshall is fiercely committed to the struggle for economic and social justice, and proud to be a member of the UAP and the adjunct organizing campaign. She has a Ph.D. in cultural anthropology and teaches in Anthropology and Intellectual Heritage at Temple.