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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.