Real Raises


by Peter Kaczmarczyk and Su Cowling

Workers are nervous everywhere right now. At IU everyone we talk to has the same questions. Will I be laid
off? Will I get any raise at all? Given the drumbeat of bad news every night about the economy, it makes sense to ask these questions. The crisis is real; the anxiety is real. But they aren’t the same. Our anxiety is being fed by constant negative news—politicians, policy makers and journalists warning us to expect the worst. The siege mentality we’re being encouraged to assume has led many of us to believe the sky is falling; the worst is on the way, so we should roll over and accept the inevitable. Some even imply that we shouldn’t bother asking for a raise in this environment, and we’re greedy for thinking we need one. This is wrong! IU workers deserve a significant and meaningful raise this coming year. So is the worst inevitable? No! As top IU people have already stated publicly, IU has made sound financial decisions which have left it fit to weather this storm. IU has an adequate budget and numerous options about how to use it. The choice is not whether to spend or not to spend; the choice that IU must make is how to spend, on buildings and projects or on wages for the citizens who work to maintain the university functioning at its high level.

Even in good years IU staff have had to live with raises that rarely kept up with inflation. That neglect has put IU staff in an even more precarious position now that the economy is in a downturn. This year the IU Board of Trustees must show concern and compassion and invest in the well-being of those in the IU family that need it the most, even if adequate wage increases require a slowdown in building projects or delays in attaining some of President McRobbie's generally worthy goals. But what about the state and the governor? Nowhere has there been more fear-mongering and predictions of doom. This too is unwarranted alarmism. The governor has stated he won’t dip into the state’s “rainy-day” fund. Wake up governor, it’s raining! Put some of the money to work where it can help the people of Indiana now when they need it. Continued spending and investment are vital to the long term health of Indiana’s economy. The needs of public education, the responsibility to continue to provide an educational pathway to as many people as possible must not be put aside. The “human” infrastructure of public education—all the thousands of citizens who work directly or indirectly for the university—must not be ignored.

However, even if the state reduces IU’s funding, it only represents 22% of IU’s annual budget and shouldn't affect the bottom line enough to warrant denying wage increases to staff. Rather the trustees must consider the role they play in the local economy, and how much all IU communities depend on the Board’s decisions. IU may not be able to keep a factory from closing, but the trustees can ensure the people they employ do not suffer as harshly as many are suffering. IU can be a beacon of hope and a rock of security in troubling and unstable waters. We hope the trustees understand this and lead the way, realizing that for the good of IU, the good of the state and the good of all the people in it, IU must give significant and sustaining raises to its staff in the coming fiscal year.

I can't believe that IU can not give us some type of a raise this year. We work so hard for the University and we are deserving of a raise. Ten years ago I was making $10.50 an hour working for a local dentist and after working here the last ten years I am barely making over $13.00 an hour. That's not much progress with the small raises we have been getting through the years. Come on IU, step up to the plate and take care of us that work hard for you and who are struggling to pay house and car payments on one income. You are the biggest employer of Monroe County, many of us are dedicated and faithful employees and we need a decent raise this year. I have many friends that work for GE and also a Printing Service with NO college education and they are making $25.00-$30.00 an hour with options to work overtime! They will be able to retire with a nice pension because of the money they were paid throughout the years. My retirement will be small compared to that thanks to my small wages. I sure would feel more respected and needed if I was making at least $15.00 an hour for the hard work I do for the University. PLEASE consider us in giving nice raises for 2009 !

Indiana University President Michael A. McRobbie today (Jan. 7) directed all IU vice presidents, chancellors and deans to immediately reduce their operating budgets by at least $4.9 million through the remainder of the current fiscal year.

The action, which applies to all IU campuses, schools and administrative offices, is in response to notification from the State Budget Agency that state operating funds for IU are being reduced by 1 percent, or $4.9 million, for 2008-09.

Overall, state operating funds provide about 19 percent of IU's $2.6 billion annual budget.

"You should consider delays in administrative hiring and reductions in equipment, supplies and travel, along with other operational reductions that will generate cash savings," McRobbie told senior administrators.

McRobbie said amounts designated for student financial aid and student technology would be exempt from the reductions.

The directive is the latest in a series of actions taken by McRobbie in response to the state's diminished revenues. In October, McRobbie ordered a slowdown in administrative hires, and last month he announced that salaries for as many as 400 of IU's senior administrators would be frozen in the upcoming fiscal year, saving more than $2 million. McRobbie noted that the latest revenue forecast shows Indiana state government now anticipating a shortfall of $763 million in its fiscal 2009 budget.

"We are taking these steps in order to preserve the quality of our primary mission of education and research," McRobbie stated. "As state officials wrestle with these financial challenges, it is our hope that they, too, will keep in mind the importance of maintaining a higher education infrastructure that will be the foundation of an economic recovery for the State of Indiana."