Letter to the Editor: Bates Employees Deserve At Least $15 an Hour

As you may have heard, Bowdoin College has recently raised their starting wage to $17 an hour for all employees. It is long overdue that Bates also raise our wages for both students and staff to a minimum of $15 an hour. Those who clean our dorms and dishes, cook our food and keep our campus beautiful deserve the dignity to earn a living wage. Student employees are also crucial to the functions of our college operations and are adults who oftentimes must pay their own bills for college. They too deserve a living wage of at least $15 an hour. Bates prides itself on being progressive and forward thinking, and yet we are keeping our hardworking staff in poverty. Bates need to address this problematic behavior and help lead our peer institutions in the war on poverty. We are one of the largest employers in Lewiston, and the 33rd biggest employer in the State of Maine. We owe it to our community to pay our employees a living wage. 

However, raising our wages isn’t just about dignity, this is about the health of our community both physically and economically. A study released in early 2020 by the National Institute of Health suggests that raising the minimum wage in every US state by $1 between 1990 and 2015 could have prevented somewhere in the region of 27,550 suicides in the United States. The mental health of our employees, as well as our students, should be an utmost priority for Bates. Furthermore, raising wages for our employees will pump thousands of dollars into the Maine economy and the Lewiston/Auburn community. As Student Body President, I am calling on our administration and the Board of Trustees to raise the starting wage at Bates to at least $15 an hour for all employees. We cannot pretend to be a progressive institution while letting our staff make abysmal wages. This is a moral issue just as much as it is an economic one. No one who works 40 hours a week at Bates College should be living in poverty.