Instead of presenting arguments or research in its recent editorial (“Reasonable Hours,” 11/10), the Maroon’s Editorial Board mused about what “seems” like “reasonable” treatment of campus workers: President Zimmer’s decision to cut Residence Halls and Commons (RHC) staff from 40 hours to 35 hours of work per week. By the Maroon’s own admission, the University’s budget decisions are opaque. On what grounds then does the Maroon applaud Zimmer’s decision? The evidence they cite of Zimmer’s “reasonableness” is that he “could have” slashed workers’ wages without reducing their hours. Indeed, such an alternative would have been harsh—and, in light of Zimmer’s contract with union workers, quite illegal. Instead of regurgitating assurances offered by the administration and speculating about absurd counterfactuals, the Maroon and administration would do well to talk with the people who work in the dormitories every day
As the article noted, the hour cuts represent an 8 percent pay cut in workers’ salaries. Missing from the editorial, however, is an analysis of what such a pay cut means for workers. The average RHC wage is $15 per/hour, which means the wage cut decreases pay from $2400/month to $2100/month. For Paul, a worker who has asked to remain anonymous, the pay cut forced him to relocate from his home to a cheaper apartment. Another worker was forced to take a second job as a referee in order to afford his children’s college tuition and his mortgage. Paul explained that the reductions have meant more than a pay cut—they have also meant one less hour per day to perform the tasks required of service and maintenance staff. For Paul, this extra work and stress makes his already difficult job, which includes lifting heavy furniture and carrying 50 pounds of trash down four flights of stairs, even more physically taxing.
While the Maroon missed the mark overall, they were correct in observing that the decision to cut workers’ hours reflects President Zimmer’s priorities. For Zimmer, whose salary is $927,814, concerns about tuition bills and mortgages are but small change. But for RHC staff, a loss of $300/month has meant serious changes.
Marybeth Tamborra and Sarah Farr
Class of 2010