New minimum wage affects Union hours

 

Students learned this week that The Union will close at 10 p.m. daily. This cuts two hours off of the former hours in order to adjust for the minimum wage increase that went into effect Jan. 1 according to this week’s Monday morning message sent out by Students’ Association President, Caleb Finck.

“Right now we do know that during our week, it is not unusual at all to literally have just a handful of students leaving the building at midnight,” Jenn Novotny, director of The Union, said.

In order to compensate for the minimum wage increase from $7.25 to $8.50 per hour, Novotny along with other administration, including the Student Union Advisory Committee, had to make changes in the facility, Novotny said. The changes need to compensate for a total of $30,000 in student labor.

Data taken from the People Counters that were installed early on last fall helped support the change in hours. According to Novotny, between the hours of 10 p.m. and midnight very few students were using the facility.

“It is important for us to continually look at the hours of the facility…there have been requests coming to the table for 24 hour access to the facility… we learned that we don’t have compelling data that would support that kind of expense,” Novotny said.

The Union had to make changes in order to keep to the budget set for the current fiscal year, or in other words, the next six months, Finck said. The budget for The Union is set in advance for the following year.

“Our union is very unique in the fact that it is so student run. Aside from advisers and the custodial staff, etc. All the advertising, Information Exchange, State Tech, BluePrint, are all student driven. They are very based off of minimum wage,” Finck said.

Between 10 p.m. and midnight, the only staff on duty were custodial staff and Union Managers. Cutting these two hours not only saved in paying the staff to facilitate the building, but in utilities costs as well, Novotny said.

“We would estimate that we would probably be able to save about $6,000 just in utilities alone,” Novotny said.

Changes to the hours of the facility will not intrude on student services however, Novotny said. All food services and other offices in the building will remain open at their normal schedule as they all close at or before 10 p.m.

Turnaround in determining where The Union would make adjustments was quick, Novotny said. Discussions as to how to adjust for the minimum wage increase began in December. The decisions had to be ready by Jan. 1.

The changes to the hours are temporary, but will remain in place for the semester, until the budget is set for next year, Finck said.

“A lot of those big budgets are scheduled to come through the first Monday in February. That’ll be the point in time when as a Senate we’ll have to discuss,” Finck said. “It could be a combination of different things. What is the cost and where does it come from?”

If The Union goes back to closing at midnight next year, funding for the facility will have to increase. This money will most likely come from a General Activity Fee increase, meaning that students will have to pay more to keep the building open later.

“Something I would stress to the students…if they want those hours back…get ahold of us. We want to know. Then we’ll go from there,” Finck said.

Students need to focus on how the change impacts them and they need to communicate those issues with Union staff and the Students’ Association, Novotny said.

“I don’t think it’s a good thing … a lot of people like to study in here and if you have a late class or finals, you can’t stay and study as long as you want to,” said Kelsey Schmidt, a freshman early childhood education major.

While students have had some negative responses to the changes in hours, so far it seems that there is understanding that they were necessary changes, Finck said.

“I think it’s a good thing, I don’t think it needs to be open until 12. It could be an issue because people meet with groups and meet to do homework and college students do that late which could be an issue,” said Alli Delay, sophomore dietetics major.

“Quite frankly the biggest response was from the Senate and they were more upset than I thought they would be,” Finck said.

Looking forward, there is the possibility that minimum wage could continue to increase, meaning changes will need to continue to be made in The Union to compensate for that, Novotny said.

One option would be implementing materials that help decrease energy consumption, such as installing more light sensors that shut off when a room is not in use, Novotny said.

“I’m always very open to hearing feedback from students…there’s always somebody to talk about whether they are concerned or whether they are excited about something,” Novotny said, “I would like to reinforce that it’s a temporary change… We are not going to make any decisions until we really have a chance to integrate what we have learned from this spring and what we have heard in feedback.”