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All MSU Employees Deserve ‘Living Wages,’ Protestors Petition

STARKVILLE, Miss.— Josh Dohmen helped graduate students get health insurance at the University of Memphis when he was a part of a labor union as a graduate student. Now he’s an assistant professor of philosophy at the Mississippi University for Women living in Starkville, Miss., where he is fighting for living wages at another university: Mississippi State University.

“There’s absolutely no reason that everyone working can’t make enough money to get by in the community where they live,” Dohmen told the Mississippi Free Press on May 1.

MSU should pay all of its full-time workers at least $24 an hour, members of the MSU chapter of United Campus Workers of Mississippi argued as they protested on campus on May 1. The demonstrators said the university should also give 12-month stipends of at least $31,200 after fees to graduate students and adjust for the cost of living by 2.5% yearly.

Union members said 500 MSU employees make less than $24 an hour, or under $48,297 annually—the salary that the Economic Policy Institute says would fulfill a “modest yet adequate standard of living” for a single-parent household in Oktibbeha County.

Dohman said many state leaders worry about brain drain or educated Mississippians moving out of state after graduating college, but will not increase the salaries for jobs to keep residents in state.

“If you can’t pay people working at the institutions who help our citizens be well educated—if you can’t pay them well enough, then it’s unclear to me how you’re actually concerned with brain drain,” he said.

Working for Living Wages

Members founded MSU’s United Campus Workers labor union chapter in 2022. United Campus Workers has chapters at 13 institutions across the country, including chapters at the University of Mississippi in Oxford and University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg.

The MSU chapter penned a petition in August 2023 to garner the attention of university leaders, and the petition hit its goal of 500 signatures in April 2024.

McCourt said the MSU chapter had been tabling monthly on the Drill Field with a tent and table since August 2023 with no problem.

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