According to the union --which is made up of students, and full-time and part-time faculty and staff in the University of Colorado school system-- the majority of its workers make close to the state's minimum wage of $12.
Nife Adowole-Stevens is a student worker in the dining department at UCCS. He says there is a major labor shortage in the department, prompting limited access to some of the dining halls. Adowole-Stevens calls the job physical and emotional labor, and gets paid $12.35.
He says his finances are spread thin, and he often drives for DoorDash to make ends meet while also doing his studies. Adowole-Stevens says the situation is worse for some of his co-workers, who have families.
“They have to pay rent and things like that," Adowole-Stevens says. "And that becomes, like, very difficult when you’re only making like $12.35 ... bare minimum every hour that you work.”
Adowole-Stevens is a member of the United Campus Workers Colorado union and swiftly signed the petition. He says increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour would go a long way.
Other schools in the University of Colorado school system, such as Denver and Boulder, have already increased wages.
“We are the only ones who haven’t," says Adowole-Stevens of UCCS.
“We’ve been talking about $15 an hour since, gosh what was that, 2015," says Jonathan Christiansen, a lecturer at UCCS and a union member.
“[Colorado Springs is] higher than the national average for the cost of living, so we need to be paying people for that,” Christiansen says.
Studies show a livable wage in Colorado Springs starts at $16, minimum.
UCCS Vice-Chancellor Chris Valentine says the school does not have the resources to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, despite the campus seeing its most successful fundraising years, despite the pandemic. However, he says the campus does not get to choose where donors donate their money.
"Out of our 2,000 student workers, we would have to cut 464 student worker positions to be able to afford to pay that pay increase," explains Valentine.
Valentine says the campus would love to raise the minimum wage, adding that the student government group at UCCS recently passed a resolution approving the initiative. But to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour would cost roughly $3 million, something Valentine says UCCS doesn't have.
Valentine tells KRDO that a small raise is coming in 2022.
"We actually are raising our minimum wage to $12.95 an hour starting January 1, so we’re making some effort, putting the resources we can behind it to help get closer to that $15 an hour," He says. "We recognize we’re not quite there yet, but we're doing our best to make a bit of a difference.”
United Campus Workers Colorado says it isn't enough.
"I think we just need to do better to support the people that are supporting the university, making the university run," says Christiansen.