By Shubha Balabaer
Picture this: you are working in an organization and you know exactly what you are earning, and that you’re earning the same amount as your similar teammates. Not only that, but you also know exactly when you’re getting a salary bump, and that you don’t have to cajole, debate, or figure out the best case to make for why you need a raise. In fact–you can’t. You can focus on your work–try your best, make mistakes, learn and grow–and know that your paycheck will not be impacted.
As a part of our benefits and compensation revamp process, MediaJustice has worked to create a fair and transparent compensation philosophy that is reflective of our mission as an organization and as people. As natural disasters, ongoing pandemics and inflation continue to impact our staff, we stepped up as organizational leaders and demanded policies that are sustainable, and aim to disrupt the status quo of white supremacy and capitalism.
In crafting our compensation philosophy we valued having something relatively subjective because we knew that introducing discretion and objectivity from a supervisor or Executive Director inherently brings in bias. Based on our values, we decided to create tiers based solely on years of experience in a similar role. We crafted this philosophy because we felt that experience (and therefore, often, skills) is more critical than formal education and someone’s ease in negotiation. This clarity offers everyone to feel equally taken care of.
The foundations of our policies are based on intentional work practices that combat structural pay inequities, and in turn, we have incorporated and practiced transparency and clarity, without bias, around our pay, allowing us to stick to negotiation-free salary processes. In addition, our Executive Director maintains and upholds that:
“By honoring the value of our staff, reflecting on policies and internal culture, and incorporating transparency into procedures and policies, MediaJustice sustained and improved our work culture.”– Steven Renderos
Negotiations are one example where we know from research and lived experience that White cis-men benefit the most. In order to move away from negotiations, MediaJustice has decided to pay highly competitive wages, benchmarking our salaries to some of the most highly-compensated markets in the country (New York City, Washington, D. C., and San Francisco) and committing to paying in the top 25th percentile or better for all roles at MediaJustice.
Through this process, we have decided to reject the notion that someone’s productivity at any given moment should be rewarded monetarily, and so we do not include performance anywhere in our compensation structure. We believe that everyone does the best they can when set up for success and we choose to find ways to nurture, coach, and uplift our staff. We want our staff to feel able to take risks, name and learn from their mistakes, and know that their salary is not at stake.
However, salary is only one component of compensation that we care about. And so we strive to also provide excellent and inclusive benefits to our team that support our individual needs and collective values For example, we provide a wellness stipend of $150 per month for all staff and provide a modest contribution to each person’s health flexible spending account (FSA). We provide 4 months of fully paid parental leave and an additional two months of time for new parents to gradually rejoin our work. MediaJustice also offers a 3-month sabbatical for those who have been with us for five years. We also pay our new staff for a week of work before their official start date, because we honor that many people working tirelessly within our movement are not always afforded the opportunity to rest.
We worked closely with the consultants from Building for Mission to shape our framework and philosophy. We were inspired by the National Young Farmers Coalition’s publicly available compensation framework. As movement workers continue to be overextended, comprehensive benefits are essential in making sure people are held and taken care of while they put in the hard work to change our world for the better. Transparency around compensation amounts, policies, and even why decisions were made as they were, doesn’t have to mean breaking the budget. White supremacist practices have involved keeping workers in the dark about compensation structures, which results in significant pay inequities for communities of color. To be open and collaborative about salaries, decision-making, and even compromises made, is to redistribute power amongst the entire organization
Our communities deserve to be taken care of while fighting for a world where we are all represented, connected, and free, and we are honored to join other organizations that are pushing back on white supremacy and creating something new.