In his latest column (“`Waging’ A War of Two Worlds”, THE HOYA, Feb. 15, 2005, A3) Josh Zumbrun is both insulting and dishonest in the way he characterizes the efforts of many at Georgetown to enact a Living Wage policy for the university’s contracted workers.

His comparison of fair wages to “indentured servitude” in particular, reveals the way in which he prefers writing loudly to writing truthfully. And while I trust most students will recognize that particular comparison as dishonest, many of Zumbrun’s other points require a clear and direct response.

First, Zumbrun attempts to make a total compensation package worth $14.93 an hour – which, depending on the benefits package, translates into a wage of about $12 to $13 an hour – seem outrageously high. It is not. It is, rather, calculated to be the bare minimum two adults must earn to support two kids without relying on government programs. It does not even allow for savings.

Second, Zumbrun claims that $14.93 is more than Georgetown’s directly-hired workers earn. In fact, a total package of $14.93 is comparable to what directly-hired custodians currently make.

$14.93 is not extravagant. It is a decent wage for honest work. If you do not often think in terms of hourly wages, translate this into an annual salary: the $14.93 package is then equivalent to a salary of about $25,000 plus benefits. That’s right, 25 grand.

Third, Zumbrun argues that for young workers especially, this wage is “dangerously high.”

In reality, this wage would simply offer young workers a bit of opportunity that most of us students take for granted – some small savings to help pay for their further education, a first car or if they are lucky, the down-payment for a house. Far from being dangerous, this wage would offer young workers a bit of security and opportunity for them and their future families.

While honest debate on the issue of a Living Wage is appreciated and necessary, Zumbrun’s column, far from helping that debate, hurts it.

Facts trump ideology.


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