College increases minumum wage for non-temporary staff

Isabelle Wood

On Oct. 19, the College instituted a raise in the hourly wages for regular employees from $14.35 to $15. This change will affect all non-temporary workers, including dishwashers, snack bar attendants, custodians and safety assistants. These employees will also be retroactively compensated for all hours worked between July 1 and Oct. 19 of 2018.

The discussion regarding raising hourly wages arose in the Committee for Priorities and Resources (CPR) open forum last spring. “CPR did discuss, and was supportive of, the proposal to raise hourly rates for the College’s lowest paid staff members. We made sure to put this conversation on our agenda early this fall,” Eiko Siniawer, professor of history and chair of the CPR, said.

Danielle Gonzalez, director of human resources (HR), elaborated on the change. “While Williams pays above market in these areas, we began conversations with the facilities and dining services departments to address some internal disparities we identified between newer hires and those who have been in their roles for a long time,” she said.

According to data presented to the CPR this September, the only pay group that had a minimum wage lower than the $15 mark were dishwashers and snack bar attendants. However, not all these staff members fell in the lowest end of that pay band. The median hourly wage for those positions is currently $17.88 for dishwashers and $16.32 for snack bar attendants. Other dining services staff typically have a median hourly wage of approximately $20, which is similar to the median for custodial staff. 

A proposal for this raise was made by HR, Vice President for Campus Life Steve Klass and Vice President for Finance and Administration and Treasurer Fred Puddester. Subsequently, it was approved by senior staff, President Maud Mandel and the CPR. 

Gonzalez emphasized that the College pays more than the market average for these jobs. HR “reviews staff compensation on an annual basis” in relation to “market data and trends, in addition to gender and internal equity,” she said. 

Klass elaborated on the College’s role in the larger community. “It’s always important that, as a major regional employer, we are consistently analyzing compensation levels for all staff, both relative to regional markets and in terms of internal equity,” he said.

The College’s increase in minimum wage helps employees to earn a full living salary. Assuming a full-time College employee works 40-hour weeks for 40 weeks a year (i.e., not working during the summer), they will earn approximately $24,000. According to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the living wage for a single adult in Berkshire County is $23,571, allowing such College employees to earn a living wage and some change. Similarly, for two adults, the calculated living wage $37,550. Employees with spouses who also earn similar salaries would also earn a living wage.