[Wikimedia-l] compromise?

Thomas Morton morton.thomas at googlemail.com
Sat Jan 5 10:11:40 UTC 2013

On Saturday, January 5, 2013, James Salsman wrote:

> Michael Snow wrote:
> >
> >... You think that having people mortgage their future and simply
> > giving them more cash, which they don't ultimately enjoy other
> > than to pay loans at distressed interest rates, is a greater benefit
> > to them than providing the best insurance coverage we can offer?
> No, I didn't mean to imply anything like that. If a typical working
> age American's immediate family suffers catastrophic medical expenses,
> it's most likely going to be one of their parents, who aren't covered
> by the Foundation's or any other employer's plan. Medicare only pays
> for 60 days of hospitalization, with copayments totaling about $30,000
> for the following 60 days, and then it stops paying altogether. (See
> e.g. http://www.kff.org/medicare/upload/7768.pdf ) In any case, most
> Americans who enter bankruptcy because of medical expenses have on
> average about $45,000 of debt, which amounts to 2.2 years of the
> difference between the mean salary of Wikimedia and Mozilla Foundation
> junior software engineers. It's not like the difference between being
> able to save a loved one from bankruptcy and keeping them in the
> hospital when they need it would displace existing health insurance or
> even make a serious dent in retirement savings.

This is a bad idea because it puts the responsibility of saving/investing
that money on the employee.

Also without healthcare insurance simple everyday costs can be astronomical
(prescriptions etc.).

So all that would happen is those employees would have to organise their
own healthcare, and would probably not get as good a deal as the foundation
can arrange.

> And that brings up another important point: What kind of talent does
> the WMF forgo by not being able to offer employees competitive
> retirement savings?  I suggest that there are very good reasons that
> all the additional Glassdoor reviews in the past week didn't really
> move the needle in satisfaction or recommendation scores. If anything
> the Foundation should be exceeding market rate to make up for its
> inability to provide equity participation plans for retirement savings
> which commercial firms can offer.

As a charity the foundation has a responsibility to balance hiring the best
talent with spending too frivolously.

So the foundation should NOT throw money at staff without showing that
paying extra would bring the charity significant increases in value.

I know programmers on a par with my talent who are perfectly content
earning significantly less than I do. So this is not a case of "the best
costs the most".

> Richard Symonds wrote:
> >
> > I would object to the precedent being set that donors from around the
> > world, however old or young, are able to directly decide the salaries of
> > staff at the WMF....
> I am not suggesting allowing donors to set salary levels, only to
> express their opinions as to whether they would object to the
> Foundation meeting market labor pay, or exceeding it to compensate for
> the inability to offer equity participation. Since the only objections
> raised against competitive pay have been that it would be an
> "irresponsible" use of donor's money, why not find out from the
> donor's whether they actually share that view? The worst that could
> happen would be that we would find that donors agree with the status
> quo.
> > I would also have an issue with donors being bombarded with emails...
> A representative sample of 384 donors is sufficient to establish the
> answer with 95% confidence. I am not suggesting asking all however
> many million there have been.

I call this number the magic 384, it's a common rookie mistake when
designing surveys for a million people.

With a sample size of 384 you do get 95% confidence, with a confidence
interval of 5%. So the data is fairly meaningless (if 49% of your
respondents say X then that could represent anything from 44 to 54 percent
of the population).

You need around 12000 for any solid degree of confidence. And I believe we
have a lot more than a million donors across a wide variety of cultures.

Please don't just throw out numbers like this unless you know what you are
taking about.


> > we should be saving our 'communication points' for something more
> important.
> What might be more important that we haven't already asked in donor
> surveys of years past?
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