Duquesne University to raise minimum wage floor |

Duquesne University to raise minimum wage floor

Deb Erdley
Duquesne University will increase its minimum wage to $16 an hour — or slightly more than twice the state and federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour — as of July 1.

Duquesne University will increase its minimum wage to $16 an hour — or slightly more than twice the state and federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour — as of July 1.

Last year, the private Catholic university boosted its minimum wage to $15 an hour.

The new wage floor will affect 168 Duquesne employees who earn between $15 and $15.99 an hour, Duquesne spokeswoman Rose Ravasio said.

University officials said the increase, announced Tuesday, means total compensation for the lowest paid full-time employees will be equal to $22 per hour when the value of benefits is included.

In addition, Duquesne officials agreed to a raise of 0.5 percent for all employees who earn less than $34,000 a year. Under the new budget, the school will contribute $500 to employee dependent care flex funds.

“These measures can benefit our full-time employees by assisting them with extra expenses related to care for children before and after school; elder care; and help for dependents who are unable to care for themselves,” university President Charles J. Dougherty wrote in a statement.

The university has raised compensation for part-time faculty who are contracted to teach on a semester-by-semester basis to $4,000 a class this fall, up from $3,500 a class in the 2013-14 school year and $3,750 last year.

The announcements were made as more members of the private sector boost their minimum wages.

Wal-Mart recently announced it will increase its minimum wage to $9 an hour, and McDonald’s has agreed to raise wages in its company-owned restaurants by $1 per hour.

Labor historian Charles McCollester, retired director of the Labor Center at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, said weakening opposition to minimum-wage increases in the private sector could pave the way for action by Congress, which has refused to heed the Obama administration’s call for a $10.10-an-hour minimum wage.

He said pressure for wage increases among low-paid workers, who have not shared in economic expansions of the past two decades, is growing as the workers increasingly struggle to cover costs such as housing and education.

McCollester said it is ironic that Duquesne is raising its minimum wage as the university battles its part-time faculty’s vote to form a collective bargaining unit.

Duquesne contends it is a religious institution exempt from federal oversight by the National Labor Relations Board and should not have to recognize the adjunct faculty’s union vote.

A National Labor Relations Board hearing officer in the Pittsburgh office heard arguments in the dispute last month and is expected to rule soon.

Debra Erdley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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