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Talk About Your Salary

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One of the biggest taboos in American work life is actually stating your salary. This is a great way for employers to divide employees. How can you collectively work for better conditions when people don’t know what each other are making? In the older world, when most people were working for wages, people knew. But in the salaried world? Forget about it, for most of us anyway. So I love this project a lot:

For the past year and a half, Williams has been getting people in the Washington region and across the country to talk publicly about what people traditionally keep private: their pay.

The videos that the Northern Virginia resident posts on Instagram, TikTok and other social media platforms, under the name Salary Transparent Street, all follow the same general format. They show the 27-year-old asking strangers to share what they do for a living and how much they earn, followed by those strangers divulging what their cubicle neighbors might not even know.

“I’m a recruiting consultant at a media company in the D.C. area,” a man tells Williams in one video. “I make upward of $120,000-plus.”

“I’m a travel nurse,” a woman in Arlington, Va., says in another video. “Last year, I made $150,000 and this year, I should hit $240,000.”

“Roofer,” a man in Richmond says. His earnings? “About $70,000 a year.”

In the last year, Williams has spoken to a dog groomer in Atlanta who makes $90,000 a year; a tattoo artist in Miami who makes $250,000 a year; and a software engineer in Portland, Ore., who makes between $400,000 and $500,000 a year.

But one of her most recent videos to go viral doesn’t show her interviewing anyone. It shows her turning the lens toward her own job. In that video, Williams shares how much Salary Transparent Street earned last year and, in doing so, offers a revealing glimpse at how content creators make money.

Honestly, we should all be sharing our salaries with everyone we know, especially the people we work with. Not doing so gives the employer so much unnecessary power over us.

For the record, as a full professor at the University of Rhode Island, I make $117,364, which is public information of course being a state employee, not to mention being collectively bargained.

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