Pay secrecy as an institutional weapon may be weakening but we still have a lot further to go.By Aditi Natasha Kini I recently asked my social media followers: Has any white male coworker divulged his salary to you? On Twitter—where the poll was open to men—64% of people said no white man had ever shared salary information, and only 15% voted “more than one.” On Facebook, where I polled only women and nonbinary people, this number dropped to 1%, with 81% voting “never.” This highly unscientific poll is nevertheless representative of an issue intertwined in conversations of allyship and organizing: Under present capitalistic structures, white men earn the most. If those white men presume to be in alignment with the baseline concept of equality and feminism, they need to share pay details with women and non-binary people in the office, and in their industry. To the white men reading this—hopefully, there are some—did that last sentence make you cringe a little? Did it make you feel awkward and apprehensive? The mechanism of that cringe is two-fold: One, pay secrecy is to your advantage as a demographic and as an individual, so giving away that information would hasten the rate with which you’re losing your edge in society, and two, pay secrecy is fostered and upheld by institutions to protect employer overlords. No capitalist wants his workers to know these details. Pay secrecy as an institutional weapon may be weakening. Now we can share spreadsheets and encourage others to talk salaries. The shame associated with talking about money may very well be morphing; before, salaries were something to discuss in hushed tones in whisper networks, if at all. Google famously retaliated against Erica Baker, an employee who started an internal spreadsheet in interest of radical salary transparency three years ago. In 2014, President Obama announced two executive actions to close the pay gap by increasing workplace transparency: he directed the Department of Labor to collect more salary information from their contractors, and prohibited federal contractors from retaliating against employees who share compensation details. These executive actions were seemingly unnecessary: after all, the National Labor Relations Act of 1935 allows “concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection.” While around half of workers have been discouraged or prohibited from sharing information, the roots of this crackdown are obvious: vicious anti-union tactics are becoming increasingly common in the American workforce. Management’s anti-union tactics have pushed down the unionization rate from 22% in the ’80s to 12.4% now, according to a 2009 study that found that employers fired union workers in 34% of organizing campaigns, threatened to close plants in 57%, and threatened to cut wages and benefits in 47% of cases.
In attempting to devalue Mo’Nique, we show how little we value Black women — how little we value ourselves.By Jodi M. Savage Comedian Mo’Nique recently asked viewers to boycott Netflix because they only offered her $500,000 for a comedy special. The Oscar-winning actress pointed out that they had offered Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle $20 million and Amy Schumer $11 million. Mo’Nique claimed that Netflix had offered her such a low amount due to gender and color discrimination. Instead of widespread support, she faced a lot of backlash on social media. People were engaged in the all too familiar sexist, racist, and self-hating tactics of making negative comments about her weight and skin color. Many hurled bombs at her that are frequently used to silence Black women and dismiss our humanity: loud, angry, no class, entitled. Others said she should be humble, prove herself, and just be grateful Netflix was willing to help revive her career. They also accused Mo’Nique of having a “bad attitude,” the classic trope for Black women who do not offer up cupcakes and smiles when criticizing how others treat them. It was the responses from Black people that I found most troubling. Black women were among her harshest critics. Maybe it’s hard to feel sympathy for Mo’Nique because most people can’t relate to an entertainer who wants more than $500,000 — but many of these criticisms also contained an unsettling subtext about who gets to assert worth in the workplace and acceptable ways of asserting one’s worth. To suggest that Mo’Nique should just be “grateful” and accept Netflix’s offer is to disregard her accomplishments, her sense of worth, and her right to demand that she be fairly compensated. It also ignores the very real pay disparities for Black women in and outside of Hollywood. In attempting to devalue Mo’Nique, we show how little we value Black women — how little we value ourselves. Most Black women will never be offered $20 million or $500,000 to do anything. But Black women should care about Mo’Nique’s pay discrimination claims because, in many ways, we are all Mo’Nique. Whether we are actresses, secretaries, corporate executives, nurses, or restaurant workers, we are more likely to earn less than our white or male counterparts. Black women earn 63 cents for every dollar a white man makes. Black women are also the least likely to ask for raises among all demographic groups except Asians. We know how pay disparities play out in the workplace for regular folks: being lowballed in salary negotiations; getting hired and then realizing that people with similar or less responsibilities, experience or job titles earn more; being given additional responsibilities, but no salary increase; and not negotiating for a higher salary or raise.