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University commits to $15 minimum wage by 2022 as part of RMAPI efforts

Aerial image of the University's River Campus and Medical Center Campus. (University of Rochester photo / J. Adam Fenster)

Update: On November 7, 2021, the University announced that it will move to a $15 per hour minimum wage, effective November 21.

As the region’s largest employer and a member of the Rochester-Monroe Anti-Poverty Initiative (RMAPI), the University of Rochester is announcing its commitment to set its minimum wage at $15 per hour by December 2022. Encouraging area employers to commit to this wage minimum has been a priority for RMAPI as part of its focus on lowering concentrations of poverty by increasing income and making basic needs more affordable and accessible. Founded in 2015, RMAPI is a multisector community collaborative with a goal to improve the quality of life for Rochester residents by reducing poverty and increasing self-sufficiency. The University of Rochester’s involvement with RMAPI goes back to the initiative’s founding, and the University is a member of its steering committee.

“We are very pleased to be able to announce our commitment to raising the minimum wage for University employment to $15 per hour by December 2022,” said University of Rochester President Sarah Mangelsdorf. “This is an acknowledgement of our obligation, not only as the largest employer and safety-net provider in the region, but also as a mission-driven institution committed to equity, diversity, and inclusion. Structural racism—exacerbated by the pandemic—is disproportionately impacting our most vulnerable in our community. We have a moral responsibility to our lowest wage employees—many of whom have performed essential duties during the COVID pandemic—and the greater Rochester community to take this important step.”

This wage increase at the University will be implemented in two stages—in December 2021 and December 2022. Across all of its affiliates, the University serves as the fifth largest private sector employer in New York State, the largest private employer in Rochester and the Finger Lakes region, and through UR Medicine, the largest health care system in upstate New York.

Through the dedicated work of partners across the Rochester community, RMAPI has created a holistic approach to reducing poverty by developing system-wide changes to create long-term improvements. Pervasive, long-standing, deeply rooted poverty is the greatest crisis that Rochester has ever faced.

“The Rochester-Monroe Anti-Poverty Initiative applauds the University of Rochester for making this critically important commitment to their employees and to our entire community,” said Aqua Porter, RMAPI executive director. “We know that we can only bring meaningful poverty reduction to Rochester when partners work together toward our common goals, and this commitment from our region’s largest employer to move closer to a living wage is a significant step in the right direction. This decision from President Sarah Mangelsdorf, along with the University’s leadership team, will have a long-lasting and powerful effect on Rochester and truly embodies the University’s pledge to improve the health and well-being of our community in a quest to become ever better.”

“This commitment from the University of Rochester will help thousands of families across our region take an important step on the path to self-sufficiency,” said Daan Braveman, cochair of the RMAPI Steering Committee. “Our neighbors who may have struggled to afford basic necessities can move toward greater stability for their families, helping to move away from the day-to-day oppression of poverty and beginning to build long-term wealth that will benefit our region for generations to come.”

“Raising wages will help to address the structural racism that has been pervasive in our community,” said Jerome Underwood, cochair of the RMAPI Steering Committee. “The 2017 report on wage inequities from the City of Rochester and RMAPI showed that our Black and Brown neighbors have been consistently paid less across all sectors and all levels of education, and committing to a $15 an hour wage will take a necessary step toward addressing this historic inequality. This decision from our region’s largest employer also sends a strong message that raising wages is not only fiscally responsible and attainable, but also morally imperative.”

The 2017 report, “Wage Disparities in Monroe County by Race and Gender,” was created by RMAPI and the City of Rochester Mayor’s Office of Innovation and Strategic Initiatives. Its purpose was to examine what earning disparities mean in Monroe County, in order to help inform RMAPI’s strategy and efforts. The data supported the need for employers and lawmakers to work to increase the wages of the affected demographics, with a goal of reducing poverty by 50 percent over the next 15 years in Rochester.

The University continues to play a central role in regional anti-poverty efforts, and numerous faculty and staff have been involved in RMAPI work groups, committees, and town halls to help develop priorities and recommendations. In addition, leaders from the University’s affiliates, including the Mt. Hope Family Center, UR Medicine Homecare and Children’s Institute, as well as East High have contributed to the initiative’s plans and to other important community partnerships like Connected Communities and ROC the Future. In 2019, the University joined other community organizations in signing the RMAPI Employer Pledge to combat poverty and structural racism in the community. The pledge is an opportunity for Monroe County employers to commit to abiding by best practices in employing individuals in poverty with regard to hiring, retention, and promotion. See the list and read more information about the pledge.


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