Friday, August 6, 2010

The Time IS Right

This week I had the privilege of participating in a Salary Roundtable conference hosted by the National Education Association. The discussion was about raising the salaries of educators, both teachers and support personnel.

Why have a conference about raises when the country is still under the pall of a persistent recession?

First, our educators are given professional expectations, thus it should follow that their compensation is viewed in the light of professionalism. Professionals never devalue their services even in tough economic times. If you have utilized a doctor, lawyer, dentist, accountant, or other professional recently, I truly doubt that individual offered you a steep discount in the fee because "times are hard". Yet, educators have been asked for both salary cuts and benefit reductions in the last two years.

Second, our members are worth every penny they are paid and much more. The value of educators' work product has not diminished because of the recession. In fact, Race To The Top is supposed to be significantly increasing the value of that product.

Third, there is never a "good time" to ask for more in wages. What employer, public or private ever encourages workers to ask for more money? Moreover, the current slow growth economy could last for many more years. Using a real world example; a para-professional in the state of Delaware begins their career at $17,228 per year. It takes them more than a decade of service to reach compensation at the federal poverty line for a family of four. Should we wait for 3 or 4 or 6 years for the economy take off before we do something about this situation? In 2015 should we have a person being paid $17K a year?

Fourth, we have historical precedent for wage increases now. In the 1930s and '40s US workers organized in record numbers and demanded fair the heart of the Great Depression.

Finally, the impoverishment of educators does not do a solitary thing to help other impoverished workers or the economy in general. A major ill of the current economic situation is that too much money has accumulated in the hands of the top 1% of the population. People like bankers taking home $100 million a year or hedge fund managers who before the crash made as much as $1 billion in single year. All of this money needs to be shaken out of the top and down to the common people so that they can start spending and living again. There are not many ways to do that. Progressive taxation is one way to do it. Another way is for large groups of workers to begin to demand the wages they deserve. Let it begin with the 3.2 million members of the National Education Association.

No comments:

Post a Comment