Over fifty students demonstrated in front of the Lair on Monday to demand wages of $21 an hour for LMU’s facilities management workers. A handful of proactive students were accompanied by participating staff members as they invited people walking by to participate in the protest.
The organizers stress that facilities management workers are earning below the living wage in Los Angeles for a single individual who has no dependents, which is $21.89 an hour according to MIT’s Living Wage Calculator. The workers are currently paid $19.15 an hour.
“I’ve been trying to enroll people because I believe there is a big disconnect between agreeing with what we’re doing and actually doing something about it,” said junior sociology major Logan Soderling, who was passing out flyers to passersby “We did acquire interest from people just by giving them a little bit of information.”
A QR was printed at the bottom of the flyers if people wished to sign the petition for fair wages on change.org.
Those who joined the demonstration were handed a chant to recite and offered a sticker with a bright red “$21” on it. Participants grabbed cardboard signs with different phrases before rallying around LMU senior Nona Pittman, who delivered a speech.
“This movement does not stop until our demands are met,” Pittman emphasized. Leading a chant, she shouted: “What’s a fair wage?”
The crowd called out, “21 an hour!”
Participants filed into formation to cross Palm Walk.
Temo López, who works in the recycling department and has been a facilities management worker for 12 years, followed and filmed the protest with his phone. Today’s protest was the first one he has seen since working at LMU.
“[My coworkers] are supportive, but they feel afraid to come because they think something is going to happen to them,” he said. “I’ve never been afraid because my student workers support me. They understand our situation and that makes me feel comfortable.”
Dozens of people lifted their heads from their phones or popped out of classrooms to watch the passionate crowd. The protestors repeated the chant all the way to University Hall’s fourth floor, outside a room where a board of directors meeting was taking place.
“I can see why there is anxiety around saying these things to a big institution, especially in front of the ones who are at fault,” said junior communications major Vanessa Amoah. “But we as students have a voice that FM workers cannot jeopardize their jobs for, so it’s really important that we do that work and be the voices for them to elevate their needs and wants.”
Amoah attended the protest with her friend, a fellow residence advisor, and sent out a message to residents on her floor prior to the demonstration, encouraging them to come out and join.
“If we are all together, the fear of getting in trouble is gone,” said Amoah.
López said he’s been asking for a raise for the last five years but there has been no change. “When I first started working at LMU, they told me my pay was going to be $16 an hour — and it was $13. I feel more excited now, but we still have to fight for it.”
The crowd stopped to hear Pittman’s speech once more, with new listeners throughout University Hall. Most people were scattered on the first floor studying at tables or having lunch in Einstein Bros. Bagels.
“I think we are doing exactly what we need to be doing,” said Soderling. “Discomfort is precisely the place where we make progress and where we grow.”
Just past noon the group tied a banner about ten feet long that said “$21 for FM” to a fourth-floor railing of the building before dispersing from the event.
“A lot of people came out,” Amoah said. “We made a lot of noise and I feel like everyone felt good at the end of it. I hope we get those wages corrected.”
Photos: Isabel Minaglia