All work, maybe a little more pay

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After a long day of work at Rockin’ Robbie’s, international student Arthur Minasyan heads home to his small apartment and is greeted by his four roommates. He relaxes for a minute before remembering the many bills he has yet to pay, and the stress overcomes him as he tries to balance his finances.

Minasyan, a student from Armenia, is not the only student who works for UVU Dining Services, earning close to minimum wage, $7.50 an hour. The current minimum wage in Utah, as well as nationally, is $7.25 an hour.

In his State of the Union address on Feb. 12, President Barack Obama announced a proposal to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $9.00 an hour.

Screen Shot 2013-03-24 at 10.52.08 AM“Tonight, let’s declare that in the wealthiest nation on Earth, no one who works full-time should have to live in poverty, and raise the federal minimum wage to $9.00 an hour,” Obama said.

That would be a welcomed change to many college students, including Minasyan.

“I would love Obama if he did this,” Minasyan said with a big smile.

Minasyan works 20 hours a week. Before taxes, this calculates out to $150 a week and $600 in a four-week month. After paying rent on an apartment, buying groceries, making payments on a musical keyboard and donating to religious charities, Minasyan is left with little to spare.

“There is still money,” Minasyan said, “but it gets thin at times.”

UVU Dining Services Director Val Brown said he would welcome the change to federal minimum wage.

“I love helping the students who work for me as much as I can,” Brown said.

The goal of UVU Dining Services is to gradually raise the pay of students well before Obama would raise federal minimum wage, according to Brown. He said his change would be a gradual increase, just like the federal minimum wage. In doing this, UVU Dining Services wouldn’t need to make a big jump if Congress decides to allow the increase to the federal minimum wage.

However, Brown also said that because UVU Dining Services is self-funded, food prices might increase as a result in order to pay their workers the new wage.

“If wages are 33 percent of the cost of running a hamburger restaurant, then that cost would be passed on to the cost of the hamburger,” Brown said. “It would approximately add an additional 18 cents, and the $3.50 hamburger would cost about $3.68.”

For employees like Minasyan, the increased minimum wage would mean a $35 weekly raise, or $140 a month. Minasyan was pleasantly surprised.

“Logically, it will support me better with my life,” Minasyan said. “It would help me better with my needs.”

Currently many states are trying to pass bills that would raise their state minimum wage above what Obama originally proposed. New Mexico just passed a bill that would increase the state minimum wage from $7.50 to $8.50 an hour. In Maryland, there is a bill pending that would increase the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10 an hour in 2015.

On a federal level, a proposed “Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013”, which would raise minimum wage to $10.10 by 2015, was rejected on March 15th. However, Democratic senators still are making a push on the bill.

As for Minasyan, he will continue to work as hard as he can and hope for the proposed raise.