What is a livable wage?
A livable wage is the hourly wage or annual income sufficient to meet a family's basic needs plus all applicable Federal and State taxes. Basic needs include food, housing, child care, transportation, health care, clothing, household and personal expenses, insurance, and 5% savings.
There is a different livable wage figure calculated for different family types: single person living on their own, two wage-earners with no children, one person with one child, etc. Most organizations that pay livable wages in Vermont use the single person living on their own number. The BNEC Task Force agreed.
The Basic Needs and Equitable Compensation Task Force appointed by President Fogel in April of 2006 found a livable wage to be $12.28 an hour. This figure takes into account UVM-specific benefits including healthcare and tution remission. This number is also calculated for 2006, and will be increased by a Cost of Living Adjustment for 2007. (find the BNEC final report here -pdf file).
The State of Vermont Joint Fiscal Office publishes a report on Basic Needs Budgets every two years (find the 2005 report here -pdf file). In 2005, the figure was $12.02 an hour. It is set to rise in the next report, to be released in mid-January, 2007. Adjusted for Cost of Living in 2006, the number is $12.43. The current report and all past ones can be viewed on the JFO's website.
update 1/15/07 The 2007 Joint Fiscal Office report is out and can be accessed from the documents page. The new report lists the number for a single person living on their own as $13.62.
update 3/31/08 The 2007 Joint Fiscal Office report Revised March 2007 is now on documents page. The revised report lists the number for a single person living on their own as $13.94 an hour.
How many workers don't make a livable wage at UVM?
There are well over four hundred workers at UVM that do not earn a livable wage. The Basic Needs Task Force identified at least 250 directly employed* workers at UVM that do not earn a livable wage. This does not include contracted workers that work on campus such as those working for Sodexho and University Dining Services. As Sodexho is a private company, they do not have to release any employment information for their on-campus workers. It is estimated that at least two hundred Sodexho workers don't earn a livable wage. Sodexho workers also do not recieve any of the benefits afforded to directly-employed workers.
In addition, there are many part-time faculty and part-time staff that are not afforded the benefits given to full-time employees, and are not paid a livable wage. Sometimes these part-time employees have workloads comparable to full time. Hiring part-time workers is a common business practice to cut-costs as UVM does not have to pay full wages or benefits. One full time worker is always better than two part-time!
* directly employed means that these workers work directly for the University of Vermont, and recieve their paychecks and benefits from UVM. Contracted means that these workers work for a company hired by UVM usually to provide a service on campus (such as food service), and recieve their paychecks and benefits, if any, from that outside company. The BNEC Task Force was only charged with looking at directly-employed workers.
Why are livable wages important?
Livable wages are important because they are about basic needs. Low wage workers live in poverty, and often need to work two or three jobs just to scrape by. If you work a full time job, you deserve enough to meet your basic needs. Especially when working somewhere like UVM that strives to be a leader in environmental and social justice. Working families should not live in poverty. The lowest paid workers on campus work very hard doing jobs integral to the daily function of this University. They deserve to be compensated fairly and to paid enough to meet their basic needs. Paying poverty wages is inexcusable. Food, rent, and healthcare are a human right and are being denied by UVM. This is not about market theory, but about real people working hard and barely getting by. President Fogel's 2005-2006 salary was almost $300,000! We can afford to give our workers what they deserve.
What progress has been made?
In November of 2006, the United Electrical Workers (UE) which represents most of the low-wage, directly employed workers on campus, won a significant increase in their three year contract that expired in June 2006. The new contract brings the minimum wage paid by UVM to union members to $10.60 an hour until July 1, 2007 when it will rise to $10.75, and then to $11.00 in 2008. In addition, health insurance benefits changed. The change will cost less out of paycheck, but may result in more out of pocket costs. The lowest paid workers will pay less than they currently do.
While these are good steps in the right direction, $10.60 is not a livable wage! And with the ever increasing cost of living in Burlington, these new wages will continue being less than a livable wage. Workers need a real livable wage.
What has been Pres. Fogel and the administration's response?
President Fogel and his administration have consistently said no to livable wages. They talk about how poor UVM is and make threats about unrealistic costs and tuition increases. At the November 30, 2006 final meeting of the Basic Needs Task Force Fogel said that he would be taking no further action on livable wages. He said that UVM is a leader amongst our peers and that workers should be happy that they are working at UVM.
Our response is that workers can't eat prestige! They need a real livable wage, not mindless talk of being a leader. Prestige and tuition remission don't put food on the table.