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Referendum Regarding $15 Minimum Wage On Campus To Be Included In UPUA Election Ballot

Elections for the next assembly of the University Park Undergraduate Association (UPUA) will be held on Wednesday, March 27.

This year’s ballot will look a bit different with the inclusion of a referendum question that will ask students if they support a “universal 15-dollar minimum wage for on-campus jobs.” Voters can choose “yes,” “no,” or “abstain.”

Penn State’s minimum wage has sat at $7.25 since 2009. Fifteen years later, this rate is not sustainable to support the modern cost of living, especially in Centre County.

In recent years, the University Park Fee Board members have strongly supported units funded by the student fee to pay their workers $15 an hour. However, there are student workers in departments not funded by the student fee, including Housing and Food Services and departments that hire students as research assistants.

UPUA was inspired to create the referendum question following a similar campaign by the University of Minnesota in 2022. The “Fight for $15” campaign was launched in March 2022. Six months later, in August, the University of Minnesota announced it would raise the campus minimum wage. University of Minnesota’s referendum received over 4,000 votes.

It’s important to note that a majority vote will not cause the $15 minimum wage to immediately go into effect. However, high numbers of “yes” votes will allow student leaders within UPUA to decide what kind of legislation should be passed regarding this issue and show the administration that students either support or oppose the change.

Referendum questions are not common, and the most recent question was asked in the 2021 UPUA election regarding whether Penn State should divest from its long-term fossil fuel assets, according to UPUA Chief Justice Hayden D’Elena.

Ninety-five percent of students who voted on the referendum selected “yes.” The university acknowledged this and committed to the action shortly after the results were shown to the administration, which displays that Penn State cares about the mass voice of students that can be shown through elections. However, it appears that three years after this vote, the university has not actually changed anything.

Along with the referendum, students can cast votes for the next student body president, academic college representatives, at-large representatives, and Faculty Senate representatives. Elections will take place on Wednesday, March 27, and students can vote via an online ballot and can review candidates on the UPUA Elections website.

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About the Author

Haylee Yocum

Haylee is a senior studying immunology and infectious disease. She is from Mifflintown, PA, a tiny town south of State College. She is fueled by dangerous amounts of caffeine and dreams of smashing the patriarchy. Any questions or discussion about Taylor Swift’s best songs can be directed to @hayleeq8 on Twitter or emailed to [email protected]

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