Beware The Livable Wage Machine

I’ve been hearing a lot of propaganda lately and it needs to stop. The Livable Wage Campaign, which from now on I’ll refer to as The Machine, has been spinning and spinning its wheels, churning out this propaganda for some time now, and I fear it’s beginning to yield results. The Machine seeks to raise the wages of all UVM staff and to do so: it will cost untold millions of dollars. I sometimes wonder whether The Machine is a veiled effort of some behind the scenes union creeping onto the radar and capturing students who think with their hearts instead of their minds. Well, my father likes to say, “If you’re not liberal when you’re young–you have no heart. And if you’re not conservative when you’re old–you have no brain.”

I must be getting old, because I’m sick of The Machine, and as a Student Government Senator, I stand ready to cast my vote against it. I see four reasons for this. One, there is no livable wage. Two, it threatens students. Three, it threatens staff themselves. Four, it threatens the quality of our education.

There is no livable wage. A spinning wheel came to a Senate meeting not too long ago and produced all sorts of numbers quantifying the livable wage. For a single person that wage is $12.02 per hour. Some of the numbers explaining this result were costs related to food, rent, savings, etc.

The amount allotted for rent was higher than what I’m paying for rent, and I’m living in the Hill Gardens with my own garage, right next to campus. The high life, right? Go figure. Well, the wood is rotting away in my bathroom and my toilet seat is broken. Hopefully if you’re reading this on a toilet seat, my words find you in comfort and relief.

Anyway, a livable wage is elusive like crack smoke; people spend and save money differently. Not to mention, it is an abuse of language to call the wages people are living on (have been living on) unlivable. Most people in the world live off of far less than even the lowest wage of any staff member at UVM, many even in the United States.

The Machine threatens students. Here’s a fact you probably already knew; out-of-state tuition is disproportionate to the value of this education. The Machine’s strange, tainted fruit could rip us off even worse. With tuition already on the rise, students and parents shouldn’t have to make sacrifices for the staff, a group who hasn’t made any more sacrifices for students than their choice of continued employment.

Staff are threatened. The very group The Machine is focused on, unknowingly could be another victim of what is overripe. Budget cuts in the neighborhood of millions of dollars would have to come from somewhere. I’d hate to see staff lose their jobs over this.

Remember that wage, however small, is better than no wage at all. This is like when liberals complain that we can’t cut down any trees from the forest, and then the overgrown forest catches fire and thousands of once beautiful acres become charred. Yes, thinning the forest a little actually protects the forest. Unplugging The Machine might actually protect the staff.

The Machine threatens the quality of our education. Budget cuts threaten faculty who need competitive wages. This point is fundamentally related to the success of UVM; the quality of our professors directly concerns all members of UVM. Should our very best professors begin to seek employment elsewhere, so might prospective students begin to seek other schools.

UVM is like a ship in a race against all the other universities in the country. UVM stays afloat because of tuition. When the school hemorrhages money it begins to sink, unless of course the spending somehow keeps us afloat, like increasing the quality of our education or experience. That education and experience, remember, is the reason for tuition. Right now the school is investing a ton of money in new construction, and we’re going to have a bar in the new Davis Center. That’s right, an on-campus bar! So let’s save our money for the important things.

Yes, I’m going to try to stop The Machine. As a senator my first priority is students–not staff. Until I see a guarantee that students don’t end up forking over the millions, I can’t vote for it. Instead, I suggest we run our own Machine–how about Livable Tuition? Our Machine could say catchy things like: Dough is better than debt.

How many students leave this place with debt? I don’t know, but I’m saving my vote for Livable Tuition over Livable Wage.