Over the past few months, the College has implemented various measures to safely bring some students back to campus during the COVID-19 pandemic. From altering dining halls to cleaning common areas more often, many departments on campus have been hard at work.
On Wednesday, a group of students, faculty and housekeepers, along with local union organizers, delivered a letter to members of the administration critiquing working conditions. The letter was delivered to the Office of the President, the Office of the Treasurer and the Office of Facilities Operations and Maintenance.
Members of the housekeeping staff have begun the process of unionization with the help of organizers from the Maine State Employees Association (MSEA). Union representatives declined to comment on the number of housekeepers supporting the initiative, but efforts to collect enough signed union authorization cards appear to have come to a standstill.
On October 21, Bowdoin students, employees and the broader community awoke to a surprising announcement that Bowdoin would be increasing wages for benefits-eligible hourly workers. Indeed, this was great news and a fantastic step towards achieving a better workplace for all Bowdoin employees, but President Clayton Rose’s refusal to acknowledge the powerful worker and student activism is both troubling and, sadly, expected.
To the Editor, I would like to thank everyone for all your support for a living wage. I feel it was a little weird for President Rose to announce our wage increase right before “the fall social” and “parent weekend.” Now with my increase, my pay in July, as I understand it, will be a little more than $2.00 more than someone starting new.
To the Editor: We applaud the College’s administration for the decision to substantially raise wages of staff in a progressive manner. We also applaud the workers who bravely spoke out about concerning conditions here, and pushed the College to do our best to honor our commitment to the Common Good.
Bowdoin Student Government (BSG) passed a resolution Wednesday supporting the College’s wage increase for housekeepers. The resolution was unanimously approved after BSG debated the terms of the resolution, adding an amendment supporting continuing engagement with this issue and removing language about specific wages.
The College will spend an additional $1.6 million annually to increase wages for benefits-eligible hourly employees beginning July 2022. As President Clayton Rose announced in an email to the campus community on Monday, this will cover both an increase in wages for workers who currently make less than $17 an hour, which will be the College’s new minimum starting wage for hourly benefits-eligible employees, up from the current starting wage of $12.65.
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.
Following a contentious debate, the Bowdoin Student Government (BSG) decided to delay a vote to ratify a statement supporting housekeepers until the upcoming Wednesday meeting on October 23. The meeting began with public comment time, which led to a wide-ranging discussion of the proposal and labor issues at the College that lasted the duration of the meeting.
To the editor: An opinion piece by 12 of Bowdoin’s 54 housekeepers and the lead editorial in the October 4 edition of The Bowdoin Orient remind us that housekeepers do critical and challenging work at the College.
Things have changed. The housekeeping department isn’t like it used to be. I have to struggle to get out of bed to come to work. I loved coming to work. But now everything is so different.
This past year, the Bowdoin Labor Alliance (BLA) exposed the vast distance between low-wage workers at the College and an administration indifferent to their needs. Leadership at the College prioritizes the financial bottom line over its obligation to our community members, even when we, as a wealthy liberal arts college and “non-profit,” have the luxury of making financial decisions that reflect our core values.
Over 100 students, faculty and alumni showed up on Thursday afternoon to show their support for Bowdoin’s housekeeping staff, several of whom spoke on the front porch of Baxter House to tell their stories and voice their demands to be paid a living wage.
As recent alumni, our lives continue to be shaped by what Bowdoin taught us: the value of critical thinking and connection to place, and a desire to work towards the Common Good in our own ways.
After months of conversations with workers to formulate Bowdoin Labor Alliance (BLA) demands, and Orient reporting on Bowdoin’s compensation program, we lament that only public pressure could generate a response from the College. We are deeply troubled by the College’s effort to mischaracterize student and worker demands, malign the Orient’s reporting, reject Maine Department of Labor standards and silence workers’ voices.
To the editor, We have been concerned about misperceptions and incorrect or incomplete information published here, and circulating elsewhere, about Bowdoin’s compensation program for our housekeepers. I want to take the opportunity to set the record straight about our compensation, the importance we place on this issue, and our substantial, ongoing efforts to make sure our housekeepers are compensated appropriately.
Disclaimer: We, the authors of this response, are willing to speak our minds about the deceptive practices of Bowdoin College revealed in last week’s issue of the Orient. We understand that making such public statements, even anonymously, poses risks for those employed by the College.
As Bowdoin’s housekeeping staff trudges through the snow to work in the wee hours of the morning, comparing their job title, benefits package and union representation to local counterparts is likely far from front of mind.
In September I will have been here 10 years. I have always loved my job. For the last five years, I have been assigned Winthrop Hall. I love to be in a first-year dorm. I meet all my students and parents the first day and tell them, “I’m your Bowdoin mom.” The biggest reason that I am here is the kids.
As part of the Free Flow project to make tampons and pads accessible to the Bowdoin community, Bowdoin Student Government (BSG) is sponsoring free dispensers in several women’s, men’s and gender-neutral restrooms. Since the dispensers and trash receptacles were installed over break, tampons from the containers in the men’s bathroom have been found in the trash over 10 times.