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The Young Democratic Socialists of America (YDSA) chapter at the University of Michigan held a labor rally Sunday afternoon at the Diag. The rally was a part of YDSA’s campaign to get the University to implement a $15 hourly minimum wage for student workers at all three U-M campuses.

The rally featured speakers who discussed the current minimum wage as well as compensation for the field work that Social Work masters students are required to complete. YDSA emphasized their support for Payments for Placements(P4P), the Social Work student organization advocating for paid field work. YDSA also mentioned the Starbucks Workers United movement in Ann Arbor, which supports policies extending full minimum wage to tipped workers. 

Public Policy junior Mahnoor Imran, a YDSA member, kicked off the event with a discussion of the rising cost of living in Ann Arbor. As tuition rises and groceries become more expensive, Imran said, student wages determine the standard of living students can access.

“It is critical that we are here today to support a higher minimum wage for student workers across all three campuses,” Imran said. “Our university’s commitment to equity must (translate to) improving the working and living conditions of the students the University claims to serve.”

Daric Thorne, a member of the Huron Valley Worker Organizing and Research Center and the U-M Institute for Social Research, said getting fair wages for student workers at the University will require both physical and emotional labor from those involved in the movement.

“I’m hopeful that (the University) can make the necessary moral and ethical choices to pay their workers at least $15 per hour and to make sure that the wages for the very real work our social service workers are doing in their placement programs (is) paid and compensated fairly,” Thorne said. “I am not hopeful that (the University) will do this on their own. I expect that we will drag them kicking and screaming into the light of a better tomorrow, and I am proud to be here with you to drag them forward.”

LSA senior Noah Streng, YDSA president, said he is deeply concerned about the pay inequity between temporary and permanent workers that many U-M student workers face. Though the Board of Regents approved a budget in June 2021 which included a $15 minimum hourly wage for all permanent employees on all three campuses, Streng said they failed to extend the same wage to all employees, including students and temporarily contracted workers.

“This exclusion (of student workers) cuts deep at those, like myself, who experienced poverty,” Streng said. “This university should not be raising tuition costs and paying student workers starvation wages, while the rising cost of living in Ann Arbor continues to increase. This system inevitably favors those with the ability to pay staggering rates and forces out low-income students from marginalized backgrounds who don’t have that privilege.”

Streng said if the University could afford to pay former President Mark Schlissel a $927,000 annual salary, they should be able to pay student employees equitably. 

“Considering that the regents approved a $10 million exit package for Schlissel, we can afford to pay student workers $15 per hour,” Streng said. “This is a matter of priorities, not resources. The regents have a responsibility to the campus community and should recognize that the University … (is) increasingly unaffordable for students.”

Because Schlissel was terminated as University President in January, the University did not have to pay out any of the $10 million, though he will still be compensated for his role as a professor.

Social Work student Matt Dargay, P4P co-chair, said his organization is specifically requesting that all Social Work students be paid for their degree-required field placements. 

“Social workers are undervalued in our economic system,” Darnay said. “Despite forming the backbone of our state’s mental health workforce, we are poorly paid compared to other professions. And crucially, this underinvestment begins in school — when social work students are required to work 16 to 24 hours a week in a field placement with no expectation of compensation.”

Michigan state Rep. Yousef Rabhi, D-Ann Arbor, said events like Sunday’s rally address a problem that extends beyond the University. The fight to raise wages, Rabhi said, is a global struggle.

“People all across this planet are being exploited on a daily basis in factories, mines and other operations across this planet in countries that have been historically exploited by colonialism and imperialism,” Rabhi said. “This community has gotten so gentrified and so expensive to live in. $20 isn’t even enough. $22 isn’t even enough. You should be able to work and make enough money to pay the bills, to pay your rent and to eat.”

Archie Magnus, a Starbucks shift supervisor at the Starbucks on South University Avenue, said they are excited South University Starbucks employees are now unionized under Starbucks Workers United. Magnus said Starbucks does not take care of their employees, and unionizing helped give back control and autonomy to the workers. 

“From a health perspective, I have back pain now at 22,” Magnus said. “From (lifting) milk, which is stupid. I didn’t understand that I deserved even more than $15 per hour, so I want to thank you guys again, for helping us and educating us on things that we deserve … Our dream is to aim forward, hopefully towards a better future.”

As the rally came to a close, Streng said he is encouraging all U-M students to sign YDSA’s petition to enact the $15 minimum wage at all three campuses to provide livable wages for students.

“We hope more students can contact us to get involved because we are just getting started,” Streng said. “In June, the Regents will be meeting to decide the budget for fiscal year 2023. So over the summer, we’re going to be increasing our pressure and trying to make sure that they follow through on meeting this demand.”

Daily Staff Reporter Sejal Patil can be reached at

Correction: This article has been corrected to reflect the preferred pronouns of Starbucks Shift Supervisor Archie Magnus which are they/them.