Letter to the editor: Progressive across-the-board pay cuts preferable to layoffs

To the editor:

Penn State recently announced that it will furlough 2,000 employees at half pay as a cost-cutting measure occasioned by the huge financial losses it is sustaining caused by the coronavirus epidemic, and that further furloughs and layoffs are possible in the coming fiscal year.

Pitt is off to the right start by the chancellor’s decision to cut his own and senior vice chancellors’ salaries. If further cuts are needed, let’s not make the mistake that Penn State is making — namely, having only a portion of the work force shoulder the entire burden.

Instead, Pitt should respond with progressive across-the-board cuts in salaries rather than layoffs. Those with large annual salaries should take a greater percentage cut than those with smaller salaries.

In fact, the federal tax brackets could be used as a guide. I’m not suggesting that federal income tax rates be used to determine the salary reduction; that would be much too large.  Actual percentage reductions would need to be determined by the University’s fiscal needs.  But, for example, if your salary puts you in the highest tax bracket, you would be subject to the highest reduction; in the next lowest bracket, the next lowest reduction; and so on. It would also be essential to impose no salary reduction on employees with salaries at the lowest end of the salary scale. 

Alan Meisel
Professor of law emeritus
Director of Online Programs, School of Law