Petition to Raise The Wage of Beloved UIS Culinary Worker Charles Wells

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Photographs courtesy of uis.edu

Image of Charles Wells

A Change.org petition has been signed by over 1,000 people to increase the wage of long-time UIS Food Service worker Charles Wells, who has indicated in the recent weeks his intent to find a new job due to a lack of a livable wage. Charles has been working for the University of Illinois Springfield for over 21 years and in that time has become an important part of student, staff and faculty’s daily routine. The comment section of the petition is filled with dozens of individual stories of admiration and adoration for Charles, such as this comment by Felisha Flowers:

“Charles is the definition of customer service and retention! Food service is hard work, especially on a college campus. Charles takes each day by the reigns and leads UIS food service to victory! If you don’t know who Charles is, you are not enrolled at UIS. He will go out of his way to help people in need, the least we can do is the same in return! Get Charles and food service workers a raise!”

Charles was most recently named the Employee of The Month back in July of 2018 for his impressive work ethic in his culinary position. “He is warm, kind and friendly. He performs his duties with care and consideration, and he goes above and beyond to reach out to faculty, staff and students to make them feel welcome at UIS,” stated his nominator for Employee of The Month. With over 1,000 signatures for Charles to obtain a raise, it would be an understatement to say the importance of retaining Charles is paramount within the UIS community. With the recent minimum wage increase signed by Governor Pritzker in 2020, the new minimum wage will be $15.00 by the year 2025. Currently the minimum wage as of January 1st, 2021, is $11.00 an hour.

The fight for a minimum wage increase has been in the works for several years now, and with the slow incremental increase, those who live off of minimum wage have years to wait before they see a real difference in their paychecks. Whether or not UIS administrators plan on raising Charles’s wage, and whether or not they will raise their wages to above the state’s bare minimum, have yet to be determined. With administration salaries in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, the inequality of pay amongst the university system’s employees is undeniable.

University of Illinois President Timothy Killeen has received a recent pay increase from $600,000 a year to $835,000, while those making current wages at 40 hours a week are seeing yearly salaries of less than $20,000. The Champaign-Urbana basketball coach Bradley Underwood will make $3,408,000 this year, and their previous football coach Lovie Smith made $21,000,000 coaching over the last six years. Our very own Interim Chancellor Karen Whitney will bring in a $300,000 salary this year, which is fifteen times the amount of two-decade veteran chef Charles Wells. The discussion of raising Charles’s pay goes further than just his own importance to the community. It forces us to question whether or not those in administrative positions should be making so much more income while those who also make our public university system run smoothly are being paid the bare minimum to survive.