Wednesday night, October 15th, more than 40 college students gathered at the campus kickoff of ‘15 Now Temple University’, a new formation of undergraduate and graduate students who have joined the fight for a $15 minimum wage in Philadelphia and across the country. The teach-in featured several student speakers, many of whom are struggling to attend classes and pay for college, while working low wage jobs.
Jill Richards, who helped organize the meeting, said “This group is doing real work for real change, and we can’t survive on the current minimum wage. Once I heard Temple was starting its own chapter, I knew I had to do something about it.”
Richards and several other organizers spent several weeks planning the meeting, inviting friends and coworkers, canvassing the community, and handing out flyers to students on campus. The high turnout mirrored the level of interest in boosting wages that citywide organizers have found in Philadelphia’s neighborhoods.
During her testimony, Temple student, worker and 15 Now organizer Nadia Adam explained, “I work retail full-time at $10.50 an hour, and I am a neuroscience major part time, which is not the easiest major to have. My child is in daycare all day, but these are the choices I have to make if I hope to make it out of poverty anytime soon. Making $15 an hour would let me escape some debt later on and have some spending money for my child.”
The students also led breakout group discussions on “$15 an hour vs. $10.10,” “$15 an hour and intersectionality,” and “the history of student movements.”
At Temple and universities across the country, students are increasingly positioned to join broader working class movements fighting for better living conditions. Student Jaq Basilis said, “The history of Temple is as a working class institution. It used to be a place where people could come get an affordable education and a decent job. Now our school is becoming privatized and exponentially more expensive. Only certain types of people can afford to go here, or we leave in tens of thousands of dollars of debt.”
Students left the meeting pledging to join 15 Now Philly, help canvass surrounding North Philly neighborhoods, and lobby city officials to take on the fight for a $15 an hour minimum wage.
Basilis added “I don’t want to feel like I’m in a different community on campus and in my neighborhood at 17th and Girard. We are part of the same struggle.”