KSU president takes $90K pay cut to give minimum wage workers a raise

"We live in some very tough times and we want to make certain that they know we, the board and myself, care about them and want to do the very best by them," said Raymond Burse, interim president of Kentucky State University.
By JC Sevcik  |  Aug. 5, 2014 at 5:06 PM
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FRANKFORT, Kan., Aug. 5 (UPI) -- Regardless of whether Congress votes to increase the federal minimum wage, the lowest paid workers at Kentucky State University will be getting a raise.

Interim president Raymond Burse volunteered to take a $90,000 pay cut so the school's low-wage workers could receive a $3/hour pay bump from $7.25 to $10.25, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader.

"This is not a publicity stunt," Burse told the paper.

"You don't give up $90,000 for publicity. I did this for the people. This is something I've been thinking about from the very beginning."
"My whole thing is I don't need to work," said Burse, who retired from his position as vice president and general counsel to General Electric in 2012 with benefits and a pension. "This is not a hobby, but in terms of the people who do the hard work and heavy lifting, they are at the lower pay scale."

Burse is serving as KSU's interim president while the school seeks a replacement for Mary Evans Sias, the school's former president who retired at the end of June after 10 years with the institution.

Burse, who worked minimum wage jobs in high school and college, was offered a little less than $350,000 for the job. However, he asked that almost a quarter of his salary go to boosting the pay of those earning minimum wage because he wanted to do right by the school's employees. He is still set to earn $259,745 in salary, even after the $90,000 pay cut.

"I figured it was easier for me to forgo that amount, rather than adding an additional burden on the institution," Burse told the Washington Post. "I had been thinking about it almost since the day they started talking to me about being interim president."

In articulating more of the motivation behind his decision, Burse also expressed his belief that offering better wages can make for a more committed work force.

"I thought that if I'm going to ask them to really be committed and give this institution their all, I should be doing something in return," Burse said. "I thought it was important."

Burse's decision to offer a quarter of his salary to the school's lowest paid workers presumably resonates in America's current socio-economic climate, especially considering rising tuition costs and student debt, along with a national movement to raise the minimum wage gaining traction.

"They are the people that do the physical labor on this campus on a daily basis. They are the ones that make it look good. I think they deserve to be rewarded," Burse told the State-Journal. "We live in some very tough times and we want to make certain that they know we, the board and myself, care about them and want to do the very best by them."

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