Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Respect requires a respectable wage

“I don’t get paid enough to put up with this.”

We’ve all heard this before. Most of us have probably said it. I know I have. It makes sense that many people would see pay as compensation for abuse received. Low-paying jobs should be easy and relatively abuse-free, while high-paying jobs are presumably that way because there’s a lot of abuse involved.

Then again, I also hear a lot about the people who work what many would consider to be high-abuse jobs. Bus drivers put up with a lot of abuse – drunken, belligerent students late at night and ridiculous campus traffic, complete with inattentive pedestrians hooked up to iPods – yet they can also sometimes be rude or late. They don’t deserve a pay raise. Their job is so easy.

Teachers are often criticized for being overpaid, particularly because they’re unionized and therefore make more than “market value.” Everyone knows how we treated teachers before college (and, for some of us, how we still do). Kids seldom pay attention, they fight authority for no good reason, they complain constantly. We all did it, at least a little bit. Yet, despite all of this abuse from students (not to mention abuse from parents), teachers still make a lot less than many occupations that require less education and have less responsibility.

I’ve heard the argument that people who work low-wage jobs, like customer service and driving buses, could be working better jobs. Also, since more people are able to do them, the wage gets pushed down by the market, even if the wage at equilibrium is less than it costs to live. Hooray capitalism, making sure that people can’t just work one job they hate, they have to work two.

And we wonder why people choose to mooch off of welfare. It’s easier to live on than one job waiting tables or driving buses.

Working two jobs, as many people who work minimum wage or close to minimum wage jobs are forced to do, causes frustration, and often, less sleep. When all you do from rise until fall every day is work, you don’t get the rest you need, and it causes people to be worse at their jobs.

Perhaps, then, the solution to a good deal of the bad service you get at restaurants and the “rude” bus drivers would be to pay them enough, so they can’t say “I don’t get paid enough to put up with this.”

It becomes a matter of whether or not behavior dictates reward or reward dictates behavior. People are less likely to care about their jobs if they don’t get paid enough to live on them. Sure, not all people will be polite and hard-working if they get paid enough, but some people won’t be happy regardless of how much money they make.

If reward didn’t dictate behavior, we students would study just as hard for a five-question quiz that means little to an overall grade than we would for a final that’s half of the grade. We would go to class every day, regardless of what was going on in class and what the possible hazards of skipping were. A class without mandatory attendance where all you do is watch a movie would be just as important as a class the day of a midterm.

The truth is, people are always evaluating the possible costs and benefits of everything they do. If a job provides them with little, they won’t work as hard. Why work so hard for so little when a welfare check can let you sit at home and watch TV? Why wear a smile all day when you know it won’t pay rent?

Jobs with little pay get workers with little effort.

If our bus drivers are going to be the best they can be, they should feel like they’re getting the best they can get. If our waiters and waitresses are going to bring us our food quickly, they need to know that, if they got fired today, they wouldn’t be getting a better life from unemployment benefits.

Perhaps if we start treating people like human beings instead of business assets, they’ll start treating us the same way.

Jonathan Reed is the opinions editor of The Crimson White. His column runs on Fridays.

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