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Philadelphia threatens to yank perks for University of Pennsylvania for stiffing security guards

$1.2 million off its water bill in 2018

An Ivy League school with an endowment approaching $15 billion gets cheaper services from the city than its own residents get. Who knew?

Philadelphia is threatening to yank a “water discount” it gives the University of Pennsylvania because Penn is violating the city’s “prevailing wage” law with regard to security guards, The Daily Pennsylvanian reports.

The university provided no explanation to the student newspaper about why it continues to pay new guards less than $12 an hour when they’re supposed to earn $15 from the start. Under the city code, all four-year institutions of higher education in Philadelphia are required to pay that amount to security guards if they avail themselves of public subsidies.

The city ordered Penn nearly a year ago to pay its guards $15 by July, and when it didn’t, sent a warning. (Prevailing wage is occupation-specific, and in the case of the lawfully paid security guards, more than twice the city’s minimum wage.)

Water discounts to both Penn and the University of Pennsylvania Health System are on the chopping block if Penn doesn’t pay up, according to Lauren Cox, deputy communications director for the Office of the Mayor.

She told the newspaper that Penn itself, excluding the health system, got a discount of more than $1.2 million in 2018. “Talks are still ongoing” with Penn, Cox said, though it’s unclear what there is to talk about if Penn is simply refusing to follow the law:

“The law is pretty specific in saying you’re required to pay the prevailing wage in return for receiving subsidies from the city or doing business with the city,” Morgan said. “What the city can do under that law if you’re not compliant is end the subsidies, take back subsidies they’ve already been given, or terminate contracts they have.”

Read the article.

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Greg spent several years as a technology policy reporter and editor for Warren Communications News in Washington, D.C., and guest host on C-SPAN’s “The Communicators.” He co-founded the alternative newspaper PUNCH and served as a reporter, editor and columnist for The Falcon at Seattle Pacific University.

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