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At 10:33 AM 5/20/97 -0400, Alexia Prendergast wrote:
>As an employee, I don't discuss pay rates with
>other coworkers. It's unprofessional.
With respect, I disagree. If there is widespread belief that this is
unprofessional, then I would argue that the definition has been encouraged
by those who have a vested interest in that definition, and we writers
should not allow ourselves to be co-opted by it. I personally can see no
way that discussing and disclosing pay rates violates the integrity of
producing a quality product with responsible effort (which is my pedantic
way of summarizing professionalism). Indeed, my "professional"
responsibility to colleagues, in my view, includes sharing and openness in
all ways other than violating ethical and explicit trade-secret
>Not discussing rates with other coworkers has
>pros and cons -- yes, it can help cover discrimination,
>but hopefully, if you talk to other professionals in
>your area and are aware of your skills, you will know
>if you are being over/underpaid. On the other
>hand, as folks pointed out, not discussing salaries,
>etc., does help prevent petty jealousies and politics
>from interfering with work.
Such jealousies and related unpleasant reactions are exactly what need to
be confronted and reversed. I agree that they're real and that it's
plausible they will result, but that fact for me isn't enough to keep rates
secret. (I'd argue that giving in to such reactions is actually pandering
to unhealthy feelings, whereas we need to help build constructive reactions.)
Does openness about rates open a can of worms? Probably; indeed I hope so.
We writers, after all, are the bait inside the agencies'/employers' cans.
(I look forward to others showing how the metaphor really works a
different way--working this metaphor into the, how shall I say, ground....)
>I suggest getting to know what the rates are in
>your area and getting to know what you are worth.
Great idea. But asking and sharing is one way. I have many times spoken
to people who want to get into tech writing, and I tell them as much as I
know about conditions, expectations, rates, and so on. Just as I wanted
help when I started out, I want to be of help now that I've made it. I am
less concerned with protecting my privilege than with building a supportive
and collaborative community.
>Then go negotiate.
Perhaps I'm weird, but I like negotiating from a position of strength
(which includes knowledge of the other sides expectations and norms).
That's why I support my union's current efforts to survey tech writing
rates and working conditions around the U.S. and publish them. Will we
have jealousies and frustrations? I imagine so. I anticipate people
learning how to channel such feelings into joint efforts (organizing,
developing model contracts, collaborating on finding work, and the like)
that will help all writers--perhaps even those who repudiate our efforts.
Richard Yanowitz, NYC
ryanowitz -at- bigfoot -dot- com