The $15 hourly minimum wage has become a gold standard as a living wage nationwide, but many in the area don't yet make it.
Linda Perry has been a custodian at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center facilities for 20 years, but she still doesn’t make $15 an hour.
"I’m a single mom and I need all the money that I can get to help me,” Perry said.
She’s hoping her employer will follow the lead of St. Jude.
The children’s research hospital announced it’s raising wages so all employees make at least $15 an hour. The change affects around 700 of the 4,000 employees in downtown Memphis.
St. Jude released this statement to WREG: “We regularly review pay to help ensure we can attract and retain the best employees. Our main goal with this increase was to better align our belief that all positions on this campus are critical to delivering on our mission. Over the past two years, we have closely examined the best financial model to raise regular, full-time and part-time employee wages to $15 per hour. We made this change because it’s the right thing to do for our people.”
"It was a great idea. Going to do a lot for the community and the people who need it,” said Darrell Clark, another UT employee.
St. Jude follows other employers making similar moves in Memphis. Some responded to protests and rallies during the 50-year anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination.
Amazon just announced it’s raising all full-time employees to $15 an hour as it opens a new distribution center in southeast Memphis.
Both Shelby County and Memphis city government, as well as Shelby County Schools announced similar initiatives this year.
Superintendent Dorsey Hopson released a statement in March saying, “with a number of our employees who are parents, it is paramount that SCS contributes to forwarding economic equality and poverty in Shelby County."
Now, these custodians just hope more employers continue to follow suit.
WREG reached out to UTHSC, Methodist, Baptist and Regional One about their wage plans.
In response, Methodist Le Bonheur Health Care released the following statement: "MLH has a long standing philosophy of competitive pay and benefits practices. We regularly review market practices in determining the pay and benefits offered to our Associates."
We're still waiting to hear from the others.