Some student employees at Santa Monica College (SMC) could lose their jobs in the coming years if the school complies with the City’s new minimum wage ordinance.
Job losses were one of three options the SMC Board of Trustees discussed at their Oct. 5 meeting. Officials could also choose to retain all student employees with reduced hours or forgo compliance with the City’s rules and pay students less than other workers in the area.
The school’s minimum wage falls under state jurisdiction. SMC is required to pay students $10.50 an hour this year and that figure will increase to $11 in 2018. The state requires an increase of $1 per year bringing the minimum wage to $15 in 2022.
The City of Santa Monica requires a minimum wage of $12 this year increasing to $13.25 in 2018, $14.25 in 2019 and $15 in 2020.
Student Trustee Chase Matthews raised the issue to the board in hopes of securing a livable wage for the over 200 students currently working at SMC.
“Many students are very curious as to why they aren’t being paid the minimum wage that is set
by our city of Santa Monica,” Matthews said. “Legally, the college falls under state jurisdiction.
Unfortunately, we fall under the cost of living for Santa Monica city.”
The board has the option to voluntarily comply with the city schedule, and such a decision would take effect at the start of 2018, as the current schedule is also set to increase at that time.
According to Vice President of Human Resources, Marcia Wade, SMC budgeted close to $2.1
million for student workers during the 2017-18 fiscal year. Wade said the money comes from the general fund, federal work-study allocations and grant money for student help.
“If there’s to be a recommendation and approval to comply with the city, then that’s going to have an impact. Right now, we have students’ hours that vary between 10 and 15 hours a week, they cannot work more than 20 hours per week during school cause the priority is success in their studies,” Wade said.
Given the tight budget situation on campus, that $2,089,000 fund is unlikely to change and the
board would face a personnel decision if hourly wages go up.
“From what Vice President Wade said, if you were to reduce the number of student workers and have the same amount of money, you would reduce it (workers) by 89 students,” Trustee Louise Jaffe said. “I was kind of shocked to see how high that number is. The other thing you could do instead of losing job positions is you would lose hours.”
Jaffe said her concern with that situation is a possible lowering in collective productivity from
student workers. The board expressed a desire during their discussion to explore the value of
losing those hours.
Jaffe also pointed out though that this may not be a bad thing for student workers, as they could make the same amount of money in less time, which would free them up to focus on schoolwork and other activities.
Matthews also recognized that scenario, and said that he hopes the issue comes up again at either the November or December board meetings.
“There’s so many benefits to being able to amass the same amount of money per student in a
quicker amount of time,” said Matthews. “Not only does it save (students) time, but it optimizes their time.”
This story was produced as part of a partnership between the Daily Press and the Santa Monica College Corsair Newspaper.