Weise Presents Research on Staff Wages at Gettysburg
By Gauri Mangala, Staff Writer
On Thursday, October 26, faculty, administration, and support staff of Gettysburg College joined together in the Science Center to listen to Professor Charles Weise as he presented research conducted by himself and Jennifer Flores ‘19 on the issue of wages, both nationally and more specifically in terms of Gettysburg College.
Weise presented the results of their survey of Gettysburg College’s hourly workers, focusing on “low wage” jobs, which was conducted in the summer of 2017.
Weise defined a low wage jobs as any job that pays than less than 15 dollars per hour. Weise and Flores’s survey found that 44.8% of support staff fall into this category of low wage jobs. Of these 44.8%, it was found that 56% are the sole income earners, 30% have a second job, 23% have adult dependents, 28% have one or more children, 23% receive income support, and 63% live with a spouse or partner. As Weise read off the numbers, the entire room listened intently, realizing the burden that low wages can put on an individual and a household.
In true Brechtian fashion, Weise provided many questions, with few answers. While he suggested phasing in a $15 minimum wage at Gettysburg over half a decade, he recognized that this would require wage increases for those in the $15-$20 wage bracket and that that money has to come from somewhere.
Weise offered the options of salary cuts from faculty and administration, tuition increases, and budget cuts. He then opened the discussion up to the entire room. Some suggested appealing to alumni for funds, while others wished for merit-based increases. Members of faculty and administration offered taking salary cuts to then be allocated to support staff.
Members of support staff also got a chance to voice their opinions and complaints. They made it clear that a one or two dollar pay raise may take people off financial assistance, but wouldn’t necessarily make things better. Some voiced concerns that they did not feel as though they were being given priority in financial planning.
President Riggs, who was in attendance, spoke out, thanking everyone for voicing their thoughts and feelings. She assured that no one should be afraid to speak out if they feel they are not being prioritized or being compensated correctly. Riggs made it clear that Gettysburg takes the matter of wages extremely seriously and that she wishes to work toward a permanent solution.
“The issue of people not earning a ‘living wage’ is a national problem that also exists here in Gettysburg,” concluded Riggs. “We pay our employees based on the markets in which we hire. We have to offer competitive salaries to faculty and administrators in order to recruit them from a national market and to retain them. Since we recruit hourly workers primarily from the local region, we benchmark their pay using that market. We are pleased to be able to offer a strong benefits package, but I understand that it is a challenge for a family to live on what some of our employees make. This year we were able to do something special for support staff only through a one-time bonus offering, but we need to consider long-term solutions. The fact that there is no easy answer to this problem doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try to improve things for our lowest paid employees.”