We are students and we are workers . This essential duality is at the heart of who we are as Reed students. We are a vital part of Reed that, collectively, creates the value Reed relies upon to maintain itself and grow. We are paid poorly; our right to self-determination in our workplace is often ignored.
In July, with no consultation of workers and no warning, the College changed its pay scale for student workers. Where previously jobs had been graded by responsibilities, now all student workers are subject to one flat minimum wage, from which they can anticipate no routine raises. Reed’s assessment of our value as workers is brutally apparent within this readjustment. You, and the hours of work you contribute to the school each year, are worth precisely the least amount of money the college can pay you while remaining in compliance with the law.
Rather than instituting one fair, universal standard for all workers, Reed has created a pay scale that rewards favoritism and creates the perfect conditions for implicit and explicit biases to reward some workers while holding others back. Management should not dispense raises for favored workers on a whim and without clear standards. All workers should have a fair chance at advancement.
Our pay, our lack of self-determination, our working conditions- none of these are inevitable. The world as it is is only ever a choice, and this is no less true of Reed than of working people writ large. Reed sits on an endowment worth half a billion dollars, charging 32% more in tuition than it did a decade ago- collecting more than 65 million dollars in 2016-17 alone- while its internal estimates show that the cost of off-campus living has increased by half in the same decade. Reed will happily cut its working students thousands of dollars in loans to meet those living costs, but it refuses to pay us anything even approaching a living wage.
Reed chooses its priorities; they don’t simply fall intact and immutable from the sky, but rather are the product of well-paid administrators making decisions about our lives. When Reed decides to only pay you the minimum wage, they are choosing between you and some other priority- new seats in the cafeteria, maybe, and the photos in admissions mailings to match- and they are basing that choice on what they think you will suffer without complaint. When we demand a raise, we are calling on the administration to increase departmental funding, not on our supervisors to cobble together a pay increase from already strained budgets.
Our demands as a union are centered upon what is equitable, and what is just. We assert that a single wage structure covering all waged student employees equally, regardless of job type, is the best way to ensure that compensation is determined fairly, and not as a result of implicit or explicit biases regarding either individual workers or the type of work performed. A just workplace must take into account questions of comparable worth- we believe our time holds equal value regardless of our labor-type, and insist on a pay structure built upon comparable worth and equal opportunity.
The College, in replying to these demands, has a rare opportunity to take notable first steps in reimagining how Reed, and liberal-arts colleges in general, might better serve their working students and ensure access amidst eternally climbing educational costs. The values from which our demands arise- equal opportunity, self-determination, fair compensation- are values integral to Reed from its inception. We call on the College to honor its best traditions- those of democracy and the struggle towards equality- and stand alongside its students, so that together, we might build a truly singular place.