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Sunday, May 15, 2016

Getting Paid

Once again, I feel it necessary to remind you that these Ravings are all inspired by my life and experiences. Sometimes a fleeting moment will start a chain of thoughts that sends me to the keyboard. Why am I saying this yet again? Because I feel it important to stress that the particulars in this post are in no way a fiction, because they all happened to me.

The subject of pay is very much on many minds these days. One point of much discussion and dissension is that there is still no universal parity for females in the workplace. I have read and heard that there are still legislators who say that a male should be paid more for the same job than a female because he has a family to support. No matter, apparently, that many females also have families to support, and in some cases as a single parent.

Another issue being raised across the country is the possibility of increasing the required minimum wage. Both sides of the issue are debated vehemently. It is often impossible for families to provide for themselves while earning minimum wages today without the assistance of federal nutrition assistance programs. Of course, the people who avail themselves of these programs are frequently derided as freeloaders that are being supported by tax dollars. The same people who feel this way often say that the minimum wage should not be raised because someone who works in a fast food restaurant does not deserve to earn ten or more dollars an hour. They also think that if the wage is increased no one will be able to afford anything and all of the restaurants and other businesses will raise their prices and all sorts of businesses will fold. Let's discuss that at a later time, shall we?

What is on my mind most often is the unequal pay scales in these so-called modern times. I think there is some deep-rooted philosophy or belief that places a higher value on the work of a male than a female. In fact, let me just say it as I see it: all over the world, men are simply valued more than women.

I learned fairly early in my life that women were considered to be of lower worth than men. How else was it possible that my father could bludgeon my mother to death and spend less than five years in prison? Prisons are filled with people serving far longer sentences for selling marijuana. How is the death of a woman of less importance than an ounce or two of marijuana?

During my career as a telephone customer service trainer, my eyes were very harshly opened regarding the inequities of salaries. When I was working on the telephones, I got paid for every hour of work performed. If I was asked to work overtime, I was paid one and one-half times my salary for all overtime hours. When I became a trainer, I was excited to become a salaried worker. Little did I realize that salaried doesn't just mean that you are guaranteed a certain wage. What I like to say jokingly, but mean with all sincerity, is that when you are a salaried worker, you get to work as many hours as your boss wants without getting paid for them. This may sound bitter and small, but I generally worked a minimum of sixty to seventy-plus hours a week and made less than telephone bankers that I trained who worked a few hours of overtime every week. 

But this isn't about being a salaried worker, it's about getting paid. After I had worked hard and learned my job well, I was hired for a training position. After I had been a trainer for about a year, one of our trainers left the company and we had a training position to fill. The trainer that was hired had absolutely no experience in the field, but had taken some training courses. I actually taught him in more than one new hire class, and helped him when he was learning to train new hire classes.

At some point after J was hired, I was given a raise of a few thousand dollars a year and felt like I was the queen of the world. As time progressed, I found that I felt a bit resentful that another trainer and I had to carry more of the load than J. At that time, I was training new hires, senior bankers who serviced loans and equity lines and other products, business service specialists, and an occasional IRA servicing class. J was training new hires.

One day shortly after we had received our packets for the annual insurance enrollment period, J was experiencing some confusion about the individualized paperwork he had received for enrollment. These packets included one's name, employee ID, and annual salary information. J was asking me questions about the paperwork and put it right in front of me. I had no idea what anyone's salary was; discussing such matters was not done. When he placed the paper in front of me and I realized that his salary was several thousand dollars a year more than mine, I was stunned and furious. If you are wondering, I never said a word about it to J, but I did to my manager.

My skill set and knowledge base was several times over what his was. I routinely trained far more than he did, and with greater accuracy. And then it really sank in - he had been hired off the street a couple of years before at a salary of about ten thousand dollars a year more than I was earning. I had a great deal of experience and knowledge, but I lacked the one thing that he had when he walked in the front door - a Y chromosome.

Within a short time after this revelation, J was no longer with the company. I went on to train two more trainers, and when I left the company a few years later I still wasn't earning what J had been earning. In fact, I was earning about four to five thousand dollars per annum below his parting salary.

My sister Liz (who worked for the same bank but different departments) and I have talked about how hard it was to get a raise. We kept hearing about how times were hard and we all had to do our part to keep the company afloat. Although my classes were always well-trained and scored well on their exams, my manager always scored me harshly so that I never got a large raise. As I recall, my last combined annual bonus and annual salary increase was two or three hundred dollars. 

A month or two after that, Liz and her husband showed me a small article in the business section of the local newspaper. The CEO of this bank that needed me to know that costs needed to be cut so that we could survive as a company had received his annual raise and bonus. Are you sitting down, folks? The man who told his employees that we couldn't afford to order pens, we should just steal them from other businesses we frequented, had received a combined raise and bonus of about three and a half million dollars. Our bitterness could have ruined a year's worth of products from a large candy factory.

I know that you will all take this for what you will. I think it is time for everyone to be paid well for a job well done. And someone who does more work and has more to contribute in a department should be rewarded for their efforts. It is high time for fairness in all things, and especially when it comes to getting paid.


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