Research


Introduction

My research focuses on living wage policies and practices of U. S. higher education institutions through the lens of just employment. A good deal of existing living (and minimum) wage research has been centered on wage laws at the state or local level. Scholars have studied the living wage movement, specific campaigns for increasing the legal minimum wage, the content of wage laws, how those laws are implemented by the government, and the economic impact of laws on the community (or state) following implementation. My research is centered on the voluntary decisions of individual employers, specifically American colleges and universities.

The federal minimum wage for non-government employees was last adjusted in 2009 to $7.25 per hour, and does not account for regional differences in the costs of living. The federal minimum wage is not indexed to inflation, so the purchasing power of minimum wage workers has continually declined. Increases to the federal minimum wage – which has occurred only seven times since between 1982 and 2021 – must be made through new legislation. In response to the limitations of the federal minimum wage, over two dozen states, the District of Columbia, and dozens of counties and municipalities have enacted minimum wage laws that establish a wage floor above the federal minimum. Additionally, an increasing number of individual employers have voluntarily increased the wages paid to their least paid workers.

Despite state/local laws and employers’ voluntary pay increases, the wages of millions of full-time workers are inadequate when compared to the local costs of living including housing, food, childcare, health insurance, transportation, and other basic necessities. The MIT Living Wage Calculator accounts for geographical variation of these costs.

Paying workers a living wage is only one aspect of a broader notion of workplace fairness that the Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor at Georgetown University describes as just employment. Just employment affirms the right of workers to a dignified workplace, inclusive of all direct, contracted, and union workers. A dignified workplace includes:

  • a preference for full-time work and continuity of employment;
  • the right of workers to freely associate and choose union representation or collective bargaining; and
  • robust due process and effective grievance procedures.

The Kalmanovitz Initiative has developed and published a Model Just Employment Policy (and accompanying Guide) specifically for higher education institutions. Although the Model Just Employment Policy was originally intended for Catholic institutions, my research broadens the application of just employment to all higher education institutions.


Current Research

My research examines the prevalence and nature of living wage or just employment (written) policies and (unwritten) practices in American higher education both across and within institutions.

Multiple InstitutionsIndividual Institutions
Written living wage policies at four-year institutions, based on searches of institutional websites, policy documents, surveys, and secondary sources.Case studies of institutions that have enacted some form of written living wage or just employment policy.
Unwritten living wage practices at four-year institutions, based upon surveys and interviews with Chief Human Resources Officers.Public statements by two-year and four-year institutions announcing voluntary increases in the wages of its lowest paid workers.
Written living wage policies and unwritten living wage practices at two-year institutions.Public statements by two-year and four-year institutions announcing voluntary increases in the wages of its lowest paid workers.

Papers

Weidner II, C. K. (2020). Is it just work? Exploring living wages in American Jesuit higher education. Journal of Jesuit Business Education, 11(1), 54-88.

Under review

A paper describing the development of an assessment which benchmarks institutions’ policies based on the Model Just Employment Policy (and accompanying Guide) published by the Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor at Georgetown University.


Presentations

Upcoming

Weidner, II, C. K. (2021, October). Assessing fair employment initiatives: A tool for benchmarking progress. To be presented at the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources (CUPA-HR) Annual Conference, National Harbor, MD.

Delivered

Weidner, II, C. K. (2020, October). (Some of the) Surprising findings about living wages in higher education during a global pandemic. Presented at the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education’s (AASHE) Global Conference on Sustainability in Higher Education (virtual).

Weidner, II, C. K. (2020, October). “Your mileage may vary”: Creating your institution’s roadmap to just employment. Presented at the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education’s (AASHE) Global Conference on Sustainability in Higher Education (virtual).

Weidner, II, C. K. (2019, October). Illuminating the invisible: How do institutions afford social sustainability? Presented at the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) Annual Conference, Spokane, WA.

Weidner, II, C. K. (2019, October). How do institutions afford living wage policies?: The costs & benefits. Presented at the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources (CUPA-HR) Annual Conference, Denver.

Weidner, II, C. K. (2018, October). When is it time for a living wage policy? Presented at the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources (CUPA-HR) Annual Conference, Indianapolis.

Weidner, II, C. K. (2018, October). This justice in: Updated results from the Living Wage Policy Study. Presented at the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) Annual Conference, Pittsburgh, PA.

Weidner, II, C. K. (2018, October). A primer on living wage policies and just employment. Presented at the 2018 Conference, The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, Pittsburgh, PA.

Weidner, II., C. K. (2018, July). Practicing the Social Sustainability We Teach: The Prevalence and Nature of Living Wage Policies in American Jesuit Colleges and Universities. Presented at the 20th Colleagues in Jesuit Business Education Annual Meeting, Seattle University, Seattle, WA.

Weidner, II, C. K. (2018, February). Socially sustainable: Living wage policies in American higher education. Webinar presented for The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education.

Weidner, II, C. K. (2017, October). Dismantling the economic walls within: Why solidarity is necessary for living wage policies in higher education. Presented at the 2017 Conference, The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, San Antonio, TX.

Weidner, II, C. K., & Sohmer, E. (2016, October). “Is it ‘socially sustainable’ if no one hears about it?”: Living wage policies, practices, and adoption in higher education. Presented at the 2016 Conference, The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, Baltimore.

Intramural

Weidner II, C. K. (2018, September). Research-in-progress: The Living Wage Policy Study. Presented as part of the Library Speaker’s Series, Saint Joseph’s University, Philadelphia.


Student Collaborators

Summer Scholars

Kelsey Welsh (’22)

Asia Whittenberger (’22)

Vraj Thakar (’22)

Ethan Dias (’19)

Elizabeth Sohmer (’16)

Graduate Assistants

Hayley Miles (MS ’19)

Jana Wolf (MBA ’17)

Data & Website Support

Heather L. Jones (’22)

Maggie Koch (’22)

Danny Phelan (’22)

Katherine Grimm (’21)

Nick Myers (’21)

Cara Smith (’21)

Ankur Bhattacharya (’19)

Hannah Salamon (’18)


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