If all goes to plan, by July 1, 2022, Bowdoin’s minimum starting wage for hourly employees will increase to $17.00 an hour, and existing employees will receive raises to compensate for the effects of wage compression. President Clayton Rose announced the wage increase after last weekend’s meeting of the Board of Trustees. We commend this action—cautiously.
Rose attributed the wage increases to simple economics. In Maine’s “extremely tight labor market,” nearby Bath Iron Works’ plan to hire 1,000 more employees in 2020 means that competition for workers in the area will be fierce. As Rose pointed out in his announcement, the new minimum wage represents a 34 percent increase over the College’s current minimum wage of $12.65 and a roughly 42 percent increase over Maine’s 2020 minimum wage of $12.00, plus yearly cost of living increases.
We are pleased that the administration has decided to increase wages.
But we also acknowledge that the College still faces a long list of problems associated with raising the starting minimum wage, including reckoning with wage compression for existing employees and hard budget decisions to find the money to pay for these wage increases.
Regardless of the stated reasons for this wage increase, we commend the staff and student activists who created, as President Rose put it, “noise” for change on this campus. Housekeepers spoke out about their working conditions and their economic hardships. Students listened and stood in solidarity with the housekeepers, mobilizing around the issue and demanding that the College pay attention.
But the work is not done.
Students, staff and faculty must not fall under the illusion that this wage increase will resolve all the issues that the College’s staff have brought to light over the last two years.
In an op-ed three weeks ago, members of the housekeeping staff described the details of their shocking working conditions, including being asked to perform tasks for which they had not been properly trained. This practice will not change when the wages go up. We must continue to apply pressure to the College to resolve these problems.
Moreover, students have a responsibility to maintain the spaces that they inhabit. As Nicole Feleo ’18 argued out in an op-ed last week, students ought to treat campus with more respect than they do. Clean up after yourself; it’s not that hard. Housekeepers are working professionals employed by the College. They have plenty of work to do without having to clean up the little messes we leave. They do not work for the students, nor should they be treated as though they do.
As Rose pointed out, a wage increase is the right thing to do in the context of a competitive labor market, and we commend the College for doing so; improving working conditions is the right thing to do. Period.
This editorial represents the majority view of the Bowdoin Orient’s editorial board, which is composed of Emily Cohen, Roither Gonzales, Rohini Kurup, Alyce McFadden and Jaret Skonieczny.