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Sunday, September 26, 2021
Graphic for students and minimum wage

Many of UF’s student workers will get a paycheck boost in 2021 when Florida raises its minimum wage.

This general election, 60% of Floridians voted to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2026. In 2021 it will raise to $10 an hour and increase a dollar every year. Florida has raised its minimum wage 15 times in the past 10 years. 

UF employs 874 people at the current Florida minimum wage of $8.56 per hour, UF spokesperson Steve Orlando wrote in an email. Over 90% of those employees are students.

“The minimum wage increases regularly, and we automatically adjust as part of our normal business process,” Orlando wrote. “This time will be no different.”

Orlando did not explain how UF adapted to past wage raises, where money for increased wages came from, if employees were let go or if hours were reduced.

About 70% of UF’s minimum wage workers are employed by five departments, Orlando wrote: Office of Student Affairs, Reitz Student Union, Housing and Residence Education, Baby Gator, a UF preschool and Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, UF’s agricultural program.

UF Housing and Residence Education employs 79 student assistants for minimum wage, spokesperson Sara Tanner wrote in an email. 

“We follow and implement any changes in laws and regulations accordingly,” she wrote.

The wage raise will cost the housing department between $125,000 and $175,000 per year, Tanner said.

Kyleigh Caicedo, a 22-year-old UF sustainability studies senior, has worked as a desk assistant for UF Housing for two years. She works shifts at residence halls across campus helping locked out residents and sorting mail.

Caicedo earns $8.75 an hour after a raise, she said, and has been working for a year. She voted in favor of Florida raising the minimum wage.

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“My parents are not rich, I need to afford my own groceries,” Caicedo said. 

The job also allowed her to find a work-life balance after struggling with her academics and personal grief after the death of her uncle in sophmore year.

“For students, time is very precious, and it's easy to feel very torn between trying to work to survive and trying to do well in classes and make sure you don’t fall behind,” she said.

When Caicedo couldn’t pick up as many hours some semesters, her parents would step in to help her financially.

“I know that there’s a lot of other students who weren’t in that position to be helped out at all,” she said. “With a $10 minimum wage, those would be the students who would be helped out the most.”

Most of IFAS’s minimum wage workers are student assistants in labs and research projects, said Jeanna Mastrodicasa, IFAS’s Associate Vice President for Operations. These minimum wage positions fill all areas of a research project, from tending to plants and animals to analyzing data.  

IFAS hasn’t made any plans on how to compensate for the upcoming wage increases yet.

“Certainly we will pay whatever is required by the state,” Mastrodicasa said.

Faculty factor in these research assistants’ wages when writing research grants, she said. Calculating the increased minimum wage into grants will be the biggest change IFAS will make.

Teresa Marrone, a 21-year-old UF business administration senior, is a supervisor-in-training for the Stephen O'Connell Center. She spends her shifts setting up for basketball and volleyball games, breaking down bleachers and sanitizing them. 

She makes $8.85 an hour and has had four or five raises since beginning two years ago. The raise to $10 in 2021 will be her largest single raise.

“When they give us our 20 cents, 40 cents, 50 cents, it truly makes a difference in our paychecks,” Marrone said. “Admin understands that we're worth more than what we currently get paid, and we understand we’re worth more than we currently get paid.”

Marrone said she voted in favor of the wage raise, as it would give her extra income to spend on groceries and other commodities in her life.

“I would be getting paid what I deserve,” she said.

When UF moved classes and campus events online in Spring 2020 due to COVID-19, Marrone said the O'Connell Center shut down, so she wasn’t getting paid. Only now are events picking up again with basketball and volleyball games.

“There’s events we missed out on hosting because of COVID and therefore money that we weren’t receiving from our clients,” she said.

At the beginning of the semester, she worked only one hour during her shifts out of fear of COVID-19, she said. In November, she got her first paycheck over $100 since the pandemic began.

“It is not a living wage currently,” she said.

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Lianna Hubbard

Lianna Hubbard is a reporter for The Alligator’s Investigative Team. The UF women’s study major began as a freelance reporter three years ago. She founded her community college’s award-winning newspaper before beginning at The Independent Florida Alligator. See an issue in your community or a story at UF? Send tips to her Twitter.


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