T here has been a lot of talk over the past year and a half in our society about income distribution within our country. Since 1979, the bottom 80% of earners have seen their share of total income decrease, while those of the top 20% have doubled in inflation-adjusted dollars. In other words, the economy has grown since 1979, but most people are not experiencing the benefits of this growth.

Meanwhile, GMC has been focusing on developing the strategic plan for authentic sustainability to be reached by 2020. One major component of that plan is increasing the social sustainability of our community.

In response to both of these topics, income distribution and social sustainability, members of the GMC community have come up with the Community Income Equity Fund (CIEF).

This fund addresses the issue of livable wages within our campus community, which according to the Vermont Livable Wage Campaign is $16.41 per hour.

There are hardworking staff members at our school, including those working for GMC, Follett, UGL, and Chartwells, who are making below this figure while supporting a family.

At this point, one might ask why we can’t just increase their pay to the livable wage. GMC is dedicated to keeping the cost of attending the school affordable for students, while it also has to be competitive for faculty and staff salary with other institutions.

With both of these groups of our community in mind, our institution is faced with a financial constraint; therefore, the CIEF is a program that invites higher earning workers to voluntarily contribute funds to workers that are currently earning less than the hourly livable wage.

By inviting other staff, faculty and administration to participate in this program, GMC will be able to supplement the income of workers across departments where they are not making the current livable wage. These payments can be made through one-time donations or through a once a year salary reduction.

The recipients and the donors of the funds will remain anonymous and funds will likely be distributed based on a combination of need and equity, with the goal of raising workers below the livable wage to the desired livable wage, which will not be given as “bonus” or based upon individuals’ work.

This program brings community economic sustainability to the front door. Participants can make small donations, but as more individuals become involved we can genuinely come together and address equity inequality to reach economic and social sustainability.

As a student, I search for ways to participate in making the community better, especially for those who work so hard to help our campus run smoothly every day. Where can we contribute besides saying “thank you”?

One way is taking responsibility for your space and respecting those who help maintain it by not trashing it.

However, is future participation in this program, giving some of our funds, another option for students? How can we become more involved in the social sustainability while addressing economic inequality? Personally speaking, I could give a few dollars from each of my work-study paychecks to add to this program.

If you have thoughts about the CIEF or questions about how it works, please contact Aaron Witham in the Sustainability Office, or any of the other members of the CIEF committee: Kevin Coburn, Steve Fesmire, Kenneth Mulder, Janie Evans, or Cail Johnstone.

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Meiko Lunetta
Read about Meiko from her Student Snapshot: http://www.greenmtn.edu/gmcjournal/pop_103111_lunetta.asp

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