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Morgan State University overhauls employee wages, approves $15 minimum wage

Morgan State University announced sweeping changes this week to employee wages including the adoption of a $15 minimum wage for hourly workers and a plan to convert contract employees to full-time wages with benefits.

The changes go into effect Wednesday and effectively put an end to Morgan State’s longtime practice of hiring contract employees to augment the university’s labor needs. The overhaul also includes increases to adjunct faculty pay in hopes of attracting and retaining high-quality instructors, officials said.

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“All of these measures come as the university seeks to address employee inequity in a profound and meaningful way at the state’s largest historically Black university,” the announcement states.

Morgan State is offering benefits to 60 eligible full-time employees who have never had employee benefits provided by the school and increasing the hourly wage for 66 regular employees. The conversions of contract workers to regular employees will conclude by the end of the current fiscal year, officials said in the announcement.

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Morgan State joins other Maryland universities in raising the minimum wage ahead of a 2019 state law that is gradually increasing the state’s minimum wage, now at $11.75, to $15 an hour by 2025 for companies with at least 15 employees. Johns Hopkins University announced in May that it planned to boost the minimum wage at its university and health system to $15 an hour.

Several private employers in the Baltimore area, such as Under Armour and Amazon, also have announced they’ll pay workers at least $15 an hour.

Morgan State President David K. Wilson called raising the wages the “moral thing to do.”

“Our employees deserve to earn a living wage and have access to benefits that will enhance their quality of life,” Wilson said in a statement. “Coming from the apex of the pandemic, when many of our contractual employees were still showing up to work and serving on the front line to keep things going despite COVID’s impact on their own families, the workforce inequities were made clear, including those on our own campus. For Morgan to ascend to the next level of national prominence, our first order of business must be to make our Morgan family whole.”

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The announcement came with support of the university’s board of regents and the state’s largest union AFSCME Council 3, which represents Morgan State employees.

“We’ve worked with Morgan State to address long-standing inequities in pay and benefits for our members,” AFSCME President Patrick Moran said in a statement. “Under President Wilson’s leadership our partnership is taking a giant step forward. This Board of Regents action recognizes the hard work of front line staff at Morgan State and is a testament to collaboration and visionary leadership.”

AFSCME has a rally scheduled Thursday at the University of Maryland, College Park to urge the University System of Maryland raise the minimum wage at all schools in the system to $15 an hour. The union also is seeking retroactive pandemic hazard pay for front-line workers and fair campus reopening policies.

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