You Decide: How Much Is A Worker Worth? What Is Fair Pay?

Last night, I attended a meeting about social justice issues. Naturally, the controversy about public worker salaries and unions in Wisconsin came up.

One person commented, “The workers in Wisconsin are not poorly paid.” As if that were a known fact.

We all have preconceived notions about how much certain workers are paid. (When we say “public workers,” we’re often thinking of  teachers, firefighters, and police officers. It is important to point out that by the very nature of state and local government, large numbers of the workers are in traditionally low-paying  jobs requiring low levels of skill or education.)  What do you think is fair pay? Please vote.

Which workers are we talking about? Teachers? Police officers? School maintenance workers? School cafeteria workers? Bus drivers? Road repair crews? Attorneys, engineers, accountants? Public health nurses? Truck drivers? Clerks who process paperwork or answer the phone?

Does a police officer deserve to be paid an adequate living wage? Does a trash collector? Should fair pay be enough for the worker to support himself or herself only? Or should the pay be high enough to also support a child? Two children?

Was answering these questions difficult, impossible, easy? Who should set pay rates? The governor, the private market, the unions, collective bargaining, lottery? Put them all  on the ballot for the voters to decide in a referendum?

How much should bloggers be paid? What? Never mind!

John Hayden