Duke will increase its minimum wage from $10.91 per hour to $12 per hour beginning in July, affecting approximately 400 employees of the University and Duke University Health System.
The minimum pay rate increase will only apply to regular employees—most of whom are currently employed as clerks, lab assistants and clinical technicians. Student employees and contracted employees—who constitute the majority of workers employed at various food vendors across campus, for example—will not be affected. The new rate will further exceed both the state and federal minimum wage of $7.25.
“Duke has a long and proud history of being above minimum wage,” said Vice President of Administration Kyle Cavanaugh.
Cavanaugh said the decision to increase minimum wage came after consistent monitoring of the market showed that the cost of living had increased.
“Taking a look at the market in the past six months, it was clear that a couple of things have changed since we moved the minimum wage in 2012,” he said.
The University’s minimum wage was last adjusted to its current rate of $10.91 per hour in 2012, following controversies over low-paid workers at Duke and a student-led campaign to increase the wage, Robert Healy, professor emeritus of environmental sciences and public policy, wrote in an email Friday.
Although the wage increase does not apply to Duke's contacted employees—including those who work at campus eateries and those who work as housekeepers—the University has a history of requesting that contractors abide by the same minimum wage, sometimes enforcing the standard through contractual provisions, Cavanaugh explained. He noted that he anticipates that such conversations about a wage raise for contracted employees will take place within the coming months.
Paris Enoch, an employee of Au Bon Pain in the Bryan Center, said he hopes that the new $12 per hour minimum wage will soon be applied to contracted employees on campus as well.
“What I’m currently making right now, $8 per hour, isn’t really livable,” Enoch said. “But $12—that’s fairly good. Even part time, you’re sure to make a living off that.”
Andrea Carrazco, an employee at the Loop Pizza Grill, added that $10 per hour was a reasonable wage—for those without children. Carrazco, who works 40 hours per week on the current minimum wage, noted that the wage could be difficult to live on for those with larger households.
Healy noted that the city and county of Durham had, for almost a decade, a living wage policy—now $12.53 per hour—that applied to both their own employees and all contracted employees who worked with the local government. The North Carolina legislature, however, voided their power to apply the policy to contractors in 2013, and the program has since ended.
Minimum wage is not the only issue that concerns the quality of life Duke offers to its employees, Cavanaugh pointed out. Beyond the minimum wage, Duke offers a highly comprehensive benefit package as well as a time-off program, he said.
“[Duke offers] a very robust retirement plan, access to healthcare [and] dental care,” he said. “All of those things taken together represent an incredibly competitive position for the University.”
Emma Baccellieri contributed reporting.
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