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College announces plan to pay workers living wage by July 2022

October 21, 2019

The College will pay its workers a minimum wage of $17 beginning on July 1, 2022, President Clayton Rose announced in an email to the Bowdoin community Monday morning. The announcement comes a year and a half after a 2018 Orient investigation revealed workers’ struggles to make ends meet that ignited an ongoing fight for a living wage for Bowdoin employees.

According to the email, the College will increase wages by roughly 10 percent each year until 2022. The ultimate $17 mark meets living wage estimates for Cumberland County. Rose’s email explained that the decision was approved this weekend by the Board of Trustees based upon continued research by Senior Vice President for Finance and Administration and Treasurer Matthew Orlando.

“This is the right thing to do for our employees, whose hard work is essential to making Bowdoin special. As I have said repeatedly, our employees come first, and as we begin in the coming weeks to formulate the budget for the next fiscal year, this was the place to start,” Rose wrote.

Rose detailed the schedule of planned wage increases—from the current $12.65 wage to $14 in July 2020, $15.50 in July 2021 and finally $17 in July 2022—and cited Maine’s tight labor market as one factor in the decision. He also referenced recent news that Bath Iron Works plans to hire 1,000 new employees in the coming year. The email made no mention of activism by students or by workers.

“Our plan to move to a starting wage of $17.00 reflects Bowdoin’s commitment to remaining a leader in wages and benefits in a new reality of record low unemployment and increasing competition for excellent employees,” Rose wrote.

Rose also assured the community that wages and benefits will be adjusted throughout the current payroll to prevent wage compression. Rose did not specify how the College will pay for the wage increase. The email directed further questions to a “FAQ” web page that clarifies some details not directly addressed in the email, including the fact that the wage increase will not apply to student workers.

In a Facebook post, the Bowdoin Labor Alliance (BLA), which has spearheaded student and alumni activism around the living wage campaign, responded to the College’s announcement with cautious optimism.

“This step in the right direction proves that only public pressure and collective action by our community can leverage Bowdoin to take the concerns, voices and lives of workers seriously,” the post reads. “We will not let this move keep us quiet or make us close our eyes to issues of class, labor and exploitation around us every day.”

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