President Bloom's (September 20th) Recommendation on the Living Wage

The President and the senior staff of the College recommend that the Board consider adding a health care subsidy for low income employees of Swarthmore College. This will allow employees who meet a means test for household income the ability to utilize their benefit bank cash for income, instead of having to spend it to purchase health care coverage for families. This, in turn, will ensure that all Swarthmore employees are able to earn a salary consistent with the level recommended by the Ad Hoc Committee on the Living Wage of $10.72/hour for a single adult. A sliding scale like the one described in the committee’s report should be used to administer this new benefit. Whether the College can implement this recommendation all at once or in stages over a few years will depend on budgetary constraints.

Currently, the College makes available to all employees money in addition to their regular salary, known as the benefit bank, which can be used to purchase benefits above those provided by the College, or taken as salary. These funds, when added to current wages, create a compensation level that is consistent with the recommendations of the Ad Hoc Committee. But because the College fully funds health care only for single coverage, those with families must spend the benefit bank funds in order to purchase health care, and so do not reach the target salary.

Admittedly, these additional wages will not cover all of the expenses incurred in raising a family, such as child care. However, we believe that providing health care coverage is the most important cost to consider subsidizing, as the effects of rising costs or the decision to go without health care can be catastrophic for families. The recommended health care subsidy will initially cost approximately $180,000 a year. The cost will then vary as a function of the future cost of health care insurance and the number of staff members eligible for the benefit.

Due primarily to cost restraints, we do not believe that it is prudent for the College to take on adding a child care benefit as recommended by the committee. We do not come to this determination lightly, and we believe it is important to recognize that the lack of affordable, quality child care is an important societal problem for which few solutions are being discussed. It is with regret that we must reject this portion of the proposal.