UWL REC Staff comment on their minimum wage compensation

Photo+retrieved+from+https%3A%2F%2Fwww.uwlax.edu%2Frecsports%2Ffacilities%2Ffitness-center%2F.

Photo retrieved from https://www.uwlax.edu/recsports/facilities/fitness-center/.

Jack O'Donnell, Sports Reporter

The campus Recreational Eagle Center is one of the most popular buildings on campus with about 88% of the student body. Because of all the traffic, the students who work there are finding it harder to be ok with what they are being paid in relation to the work they do. “I really like my job and I like that I have the ability to do something I’m passionate about,” said Competitive Sports Student Coordinator Michaela Richman.  

“Student Union Building Managers get paid 10 or 11 dollars an hour, while the REC building managers only get $8.75 an hour,” said Richman. It is a significant difference for similar titles. Richman says the jobs may be different and require different tasks, but still, it is important to look at pay in relation to other on-campus student jobs, especially in the context of how often the REC is used, this is a high discrepancy in pay.  

“UW-Eau Claire’s REC staff get paid around 10 dollars an hour,” said Richman. The University of Wisconsin-La Crosse campus is known for recreational sports and outdoor activities. Because of the campus’s objectively strong Sports Science curriculum and the natural surrounding topographical features that encourage outdoor recreation, UWL is considered an active student body.  

“It has been hard to get people to come work at the REC with the pay being so low,” said Richman. “A lot of students participate in intramurals and sports clubs, but we also have outdoor connections and the climbing wall,” said Richman. She says 88% of students use the REC, and it should be staffed appropriately. “We should be compensated for the large number of people that come to the REC,” said Richman.  

While the REC staff feel they should be paid more they still enjoy their job and the benefits it offers. “I don’t want to deter people from working at the REC, it is very convenient to work on campus, and being able to just walk here is very nice,” said Richman.

Another benefit of the REC is the experiences says Fitness Center Supervisor Collin Kipper,“They focus on professional and leadership development which has been very helpful.”

“The relationships I have made with the staff and with students coming to the REC, I have made so many connections and friends while working at the REC,” said Kipper on some other benefits for working on campus. 

Richman doesn’t want to put her bosses in a bad light either. “They have my interests at heart […] it is the people above them that aren’t willing to change our pay,” said Richman. The lack of communication on the reasons why the pay is situated where it is is one of both Kipper and Richman’s frustrations. “I Would like to hear reasons why they can’t increase our pay, and more communication with the higher-ups and the students,” said Kipper.  

The Bosses of the REC are salaried professionals and understand how hard their employees work and what they do for the campus. “They actually care about us, they will advocate for us, and listen to us and if I ask, ‘Hey I think this should change’ they will talk to me about it,” said Richman talking about one of the benefits of her job on campus being a good boss to student relationship. “I can definitely say that we are a family,” said Richman. They do feel for their employees and are advocating having higher pay for the employees. 

Kipper does feel that while they advocate for them, but he personally would like to see some more actions taken. “More support from our professional staff, they are there for us, but they tell us we need to enforce these policies and don’t have a lot of resources for us to do so,” said Kipper. He understands that the professional staff doesn’t have control over how much they get paid, but would still like to see them more actively engaging to increase pay.  

Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, the REC, along with the rest of UWL, has implemented a mask mandate for users. In addition to average day-to-day responsibilities, the REC staff have been dealing with students who do not follow the guidelines. “We are getting a lot of hate and a lot of in-your-face disrespect,” said Richman. “It is hard to put on that customer service face and still kind to these people.” The mask policy requires students to wear a mask whenever they are inside. But with the increase in vaccination rate and students who are frustrated with the regulations COVID-19 has sparked, a lot of them do not always follow what is being asked of them to do.  

“We have a lot of issues with people not following it (the mask mandate), disrespecting us, and getting into arguments,” said Kipper.  

“We do a lot of work for this campus, and it is hard to continue doing the work when I can’t fit needs outside of campus,” said Richman. She says it is not a matter of appreciating the job that is the problem. These students want to continue working on campus but being a college student can be expensive. “Half of our staff has two jobs on top of being a full-time student and it just isn’t necessary,” said Richman.  

These students need to pay for school, rent, and groceries. In addition, as a college student, having a healthy social life might require paying for things, says Richman. “I have so much passion for this job that I really want to stay.”  

“The tricky part is I can complain all I want but I really don’t have a solution,” she said on what they could do to increase their pay. “The only solution I can come up with is having students pay for fees, but I don’t want that to happen.” It is hard to justify paying students more and Richman understands that, but she would still like some form of equality across the campus and how it pays its student workers.  

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