MEMPHIS, Tenn. — About 1,200 Shelby County School employees are set to get a raise after an announcement from Superintendent Dorsey Hopson Tuesday night.
Alexis Matthews works at Checkers making less than $8 an hour. She knows the important of earning a living wage.
“You have to make a choice are you going to pay the light or rent,” Matthews said.
Soon, no Shelby County School employees will have to make that choice.
Hopson proposed raising wages for all employees to $15 an hour at a work session Tuesday.
The change would affect about 10 percent of SCS employees, including teaching assistants, warehouse workers and cafeteria workers who all make less than that now.
“It shows someone sees what we’re doing out in the street,” Matthews said of the Fight for 15 rally in which she participated last month.
Hopson released a statement to WREG explaining the choice: “With a number of our employees who are parents, it is paramount that SCS contributes to forwarding economic equality and poverty in Shelby County.”
He said the National Civil Rights Museum’s study showing high levels of poverty for families in Shelby County very similar to those of 1968 inspired him to make the proposal.
He wanted to change that and says raising wages honors Dr. King’s legacy.
“When you can’t make it off the pay they’re giving, you have to do what you have to do,” Matthews said.
Elaine Taylor also knows the struggle; her father was a sanitation worker who participated in the 1968 strike.
She said this move honors the man who came to Memphis to help.
“This is something Dr. King would’ve fought for, whatever work field you were in,” she said.
Matthews and fellow fast food worker Jalen Walker hoped it started a movement.
“It’s still a lot of work to be done. We’re not gonna stop fighting,” Matthews said.
“The next step is us,” Walker said.
They hoped fast food restaurants were paying attention.
The school board still has to approve the budget increase.
District officials say it’ll cost about $2 million.