Framing Change: Social Movement Framing in University Living Wage Movements



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



In recent years, living wage movements have developed around the United States. In addition to advocating for living wage ordinances and laws in cities, living wage movements have developed to advocate for living wage policies at universities across the country. The purpose of this dissertation is to examine living wage movements at two universities to understand how they use communication to frame the wage issue and to push for the implementation of living wage policies. To develop an understanding of these living wage movements, two cases, Texas A&M University and Georgetown University, were selected for this study to examine through the lens of the social movement framing perspective. Data for the cases included interviews with activists and administrators, media reports, video documentaries, and internal documents. Results showed that the living wage campaign in each case prioritized the components of collective action frames, diagnostic, prognostic, and motivational framing, differently. The Texas A&M living wage campaign focused heavily on developing the problem at an emotional level and offering a clear solution to the problem. The Georgetown living wage campaign focused heavily on laying blame for the problem. Each case also exhibited elements of master framing which linked its campaign to preexisting values. Most notably, in both cases, the existing university values and culture were used as a basis for master framing. The results also showed that the campaign targeted different constituencies, with the Texas A&M campaign attempting to gain popular support and the Georgetown campaign focusing on the university?s administration. This, along with the degree to which each campaign was willing to accept compromise, had a large impact on the campaigns? overall strategies. Overall, the results of this study show how communication related to an issue affects the course of a social movement and how a social movement approach can be used to create organizational change.