Bill H.163 in the Massachusetts is a loan repayment program for certain human service workers. It caught my attention as there was a time that I looked into employment in that field only to discover that the wages were dismal, not enough to support a family, much less an individual living in Massachusetts. After one semester at a local college pursuing a masters degree to enter this field, I left on the advice of many who were already in it, struggling to make ends meet. I had a family to support and saddling myself with student loan debt on top of that would be a financial disaster, given the low wages and quite often, lack of benefits.
On a side note, my interest in this field stemmed from my personal experience being treated and cared for while a patient at such a facility for a mental health issue. The professionalism, devotion and care shown by them was inspiring, even more so when I eventually learned how little they were paid.
If you look into the figures, the average worker in this field makes $15-20 an hour. From my recollection, many are part time and string together a few jobs to make one whole. H. 163, if you do the math, works out to supplementing the wages of these workers by about $1 an hour over a period of four years, then it expires. While I applaud any efforts to help people in this community, I see this as all too typical of government allowing wealthy corporations to externalize the true costs of their work force by transferring those costs to the pubic sector, to be paid for by taxes.
The salaries of CEO’s in this field are, from what I can find, private but I found a few clues. This one for Jorge Dominicis CEO for Wellpath, adjusted for inflation, puts it at about $400,000 a year, or $200 an hour. At a mental health facility in my community, the workers make less than $15 an hour. Many of these people are highly skilled, college educated, and in dept for years paying off student loan debt. The employees of these enterprises require food, housing, medical care, and so much more including a college education. In a just world, the employers of these individuals would pay enough to cover those costs, and more.
H. 163, like so many pieces of legislation, treats the symptoms of widening wage disparity and out of control CEO salaries while it ignores the cause. It allows corporations to continue to pay their work force less than what would be possible under “free market” rules with a coordinated effort with government to externalize the true cost of labor onto the backs of citizens in order to keep corporate profits and CEO salaries climbing higher and higher each year.
I’ll do more than complain about this. I will offer an alternative. The average US Federal Employee makes $52K a year while our “CEO” makes $400K, or a little less than 8X the average. If a corporation, hospital, or any other entity wishes to do business with the US or Massachusetts state government, such as accepting Mass Health or Medicare, they must provide wage reports that show a Average Worker / CEO ration of no more than 7.5X. Or, on a state level, the “CEO” Charlie Baker makes $185K while state social workers make $50K, so let’s legislate that any corporation wanting to do business with Mass Health or any source of state revenue meet that same CEO/worker ratio. As expected, the defense of these high CEO wages will be that they are necessary to secure top talent. Does that say that Charlie Baker is not top talent? (I will not comment on our current president)
While I am sure their may be a few glitches in my arithmetic, I hope you understand the objective. It’s nothing new and has been done before in other ways, such as granting government contracts to minority owned businesses or even the EMTALA legislation that requires hospitals to provide free care to many if they wish to be on the Medicare approved list.