New York University (NYU) student activists win wage increase on campus, 2016

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Time Period:  
18 September
24 March
Location and Goals
United States
Location City/State/Province: 
New York City, New York
"The Student Labor Action Movement encourages NYU to value its student workers by providing a livable wage. The livable wage would be defined as fifteen dollars an hour for student workers." (SLAM: Petition for NYU to Pay Workers $15 an Hour)

In 2015, student activists took action against New York University, a prestigious 4-year research university in New York City, United States, to increase the minimum wage of part-time student workers employed by the University. The campaign began on 18 September 2015, when members of the Student Labor Action Movement (SLAM) gathered to conduct a sit-in at 726 Broadway inside the office of Beth Haymaker, the director of NYU’s Global Programs. SLAM members organized the sit-in to protest the mistreatment of Niza Mirza, an international student from Pakistan. Mirza was unable to afford the cost of living at NYU’s Washington D.C. campus, and when she attempted to live off-campus with relatives, according to an article by The Villager, “administrators told her to immediately move to NYU housing or withdraw from the university.”

SLAM members told the media that they believed Mirza experienced “unfair treatment and ‘retaliation,’” due to the fact that she recently started a petition against NYU to lower their tuition fees. In 2015, according to Business Insider, NYU was the seventh most expensive university in the US. In 2015, the average student debt of NYU graduates was about $35,000. After SLAM members met with Fred Schwarzbach, Dean of Liberal Studies, and John Beckman, NYU’s Chief Spokesperson, the University offered to give Mirza the funding she needed to live on-campus.

This initial victory opened up the larger issue of NYU’s unaffordability and led SLAM members to campaign to increase minimum wages for part-time student workers from $15 per hour. Activists created a petition on 21 October 2015 and posted it on their Facebook group. According to SLAM’s website, the petition “garnered over 300 signatures.”

In order to put pressure on NYU administrators, SLAM members took direct action on 10 November 2015. They joined numerous allied groups in a mass protest at Foley Square, NYC. SLAM activists marched from Washington Square Park to Bobst Library through the rain. Protesters held up signs saying “#FightFor15” on their way to deliver their petition to NYU administrators. Afterward, activists joined other allied groups at Foley Square, including the Service Employees International Union, Hotel Trade Council, and the Teamsters UPS union members. SLAM President Robert Ascherman gave a speech at the rally advocating for an increase in student wages. SLAM conducted a march from Foley Square to Bowling Green with student members and other activists.

Later on 15 December, according to a press release by United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS), SLAM conducted a rally for “as long as it would take for President John Sexton to make $1,500.” Hannah Fullerton, a spokesperson for SLAM, told USAS, “a measly two and a half hours, to make what I can make in a semester, if I’m lucky. We cheered every time he made $50, that was every five minutes. It really underscored the value that NYU puts on things like executive compensation compared to students’ financial stability.”

On March 8, 2016, Fullerton addressed NYU President Alex Hamilton at his “Afternoon tea with President Hamilton” event. In a video posted to Facebook, Fullerton discusses the various financial struggles students face while being enrolled at NYU.

On March 24th, 2016, President Hamilton issued a statement confirming that the University would increase the minimum wage by the 2018-19 school year to $15 per hour. NYU became the first private university in the US to increase student wages to $15 nationwide. A SLAM member told Washington Square News: “The fact that NYU is doing this and taking this step as the first private university to take this step in this country, I think provides a good amount of momentum of pushing this towards the whole state.” The NYU victory for SLAM led the #Fightfor15 movement to gain more momentum nationwide Less than a week later, Columbia University, another prestigious 4-year university in New York City, confirmed that it would increase its own student wages.

Research Notes

The NYU Student Labor Action Movement (SLAM) was influenced by the United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) #Fightfor15 Movement across the United States.

The NYU Student Labor Action Movement (SLAM) influenced student activists at Columbia University to also increase their hourly student wages.

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Anon. 2016b. “In ‘Fight for 15’ Win, N.Y.U. Will Boost Pay for Student Workers.” The Villager, March 31. Retrieved February 17, 2019. (

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Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy: 
Austin Yanez 29/05/2019