New program touts $15/hour wage as library employees earn less

BRATTLEBORO — I am employed in the Brooks Memorial Library by the Town of Brattleboro. Although it is not required for my position, I do have a master's degree and 11 years of professional experience. I earn $13 an hour.

It was both stinging and disheartening to read about the Work Today program, which proposes a wage of $15 an hour for program participants.

My comments here are directed not so much at the Work Today program, which has laudable goals (I, too, wish for everyone to be able to rise up) but more so at Brattleboro town officials and voters. The article simply brought a longstanding problem to the surface.

Brooks Memorial Library employees consistently earn below living wages. Perhaps this is because library work has traditionally been seen as “women's work,” or perhaps it is because the town does not value the library and its services; steady annual increases in circulation and usage would indicate otherwise.

Regardless of the reasons, an opportunity exists now to correct this inequity.

Town Manager Peter Ewell has “estimated the town has ended each of the last fiscal years with surpluses of more than $400,000 to $900,000,” according to the article.

Please consider having the Human Resources staff review employee pay scales, and utilize a portion of this surplus to budget for fair wages.

May the town of Brattleboro extend the same dignity, sense of purpose, meaningful work, and wages to all town employees.

Or, in the words of Emilie Kornheiser, “If we're modeling for people and building a program that's about the dignity of work, the purpose of work, meaningful work, and we're interested in getting money in people's pockets, and we're interested in building a community where everyone is served by the economy and everyone can benefit from the economy, then I think $15 is the bare minimum we can set up for them.”

I think $15 is the bare minimum we can set for town employees, too!

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