May 03

Salary versus Hourly Wages

Image from Evan Jackson.

Image from Evan Jackson.

I’ve heard this argument before. Teachers shouldn’t complain about having to work extra hours to get their work done. Other professionals get paid to get their job done whether they work a 60 hour week or a 100 hour week. Some of them work endless hours when getting a project done.

So why do teachers complain when they are asked to work extra hours to get their job done?

When I first started teaching I thought of myself as a salaried employee. I was fine working for a few hours after the kids went home and coming in on weekends to prepare and grade. After all, I thought, I’m getting paid a salary to do my job.

It wasn’t until I got involved with my local union and pad close attention to my pay stubs that I saw how we were treated like hourly employees instead of salary employees. If we think of ourselves as hourly employees then putting in overtime requires overtime pay. Any hourly wage person knows that and overtime pay is usually pretty darn good (except for teachers that is!). I remember one year when one of our school board members finally understood what we were asking for when we used the term overtime pay. He finally got why we wanted to negotiate for more pay.

As a teacher, an educator, a professional, I can easily get behind being a salaried employee. I can easily get behind putting in as much work as I need to do to get my job done. But here’s the catch, my salary has to be enough to actually make a living. Yes, I can honestly say that what I get paid now is not enough to make a living to support my family. Part of that comes from having taken quite a bunch of pay cuts coupled with increasing health care costs. I actually took home less money every year for six years straight! That took its toll and our debt surmounted. Catching up is difficult.

Had I been making a decent salary, we might have made it through those tough times. Either way, if I made enough so that putting food on my table, being able to buy clothes when we need them, fixing and fueling our automobile, paying bills and a mortgage, AND having healthcare was not an issue, then I could focus 100% on my job. It’s when your monthly check is not enough that a teacher has to look for extra work. So when my job takes more of my time than I can afford I absolutely want to be paid for it! These times are tough and as a professional we want to make a professional’s wage.

I don’t think that is asking for too much for what we teachers do.

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