Op-ed: Fight for $15: Better for all

Crystal Wells | Housekeeper at Washington University

Imagine clocking out after a 14-hour day, getting home and seeing an eviction warning on your door. For too many St. Louis working families, many of whom clean this campus, that’s reality.

I have worked at Washington University for nearly two decades. Even though I work full-time at a university with an $8 billion endowment, I’ve sometimes had to work three jobs to make ends meet. There have been times where I start at 4:30 a.m. and then end my day at 10 at night.

A full-time job should be enough to support by family, but it’s not. Every month I receive a five-day notice that I will be evicted because I am not able to make rent on time. Working so much means that I can’t spend time with my kids. I’ve missed so many of their firsts, like their first steps, first plays and first dances.

Housekeepers keep Wash. U. clean and healthy. We’re a crucial part of this campus and keep students and faculty from getting sick. I clean conference rooms that cost more than my house. The working people who keep this university running—like housekeepers, food service workers, graduate workers and adjunct faculty—shouldn’t have to struggle to make ends meet.

Our Fight for $15, childcare and good union jobs isn’t just for us—it unites everyone at this school and makes our campus better for everyone. My coworkers and I delivered 1,300 petition signatures from students and the community to the administration because they understand the importance of these issues to the Washington University community as a whole.

For me, $15 an hour and childcare means not having to struggle to pay the bills. It means being able to support my children and put food on the table. I’m lucky to have a voice on the job with my union, but others campus workers do not.

Is Chancellor Mark Wrighton going to wake up one morning and just decide to pay us enough to pay our bills? No way. But we’ll keep fighting until we build the support we need to win, because I am sick of living in fear.