Competitive Pay is Still OK, Right?

Dan Wardby Dan Ward

First of all, let me say that I agree completely with the Orlando Sentinel’s Scott Maxwell and others who believe it is unfair that soldiers risking their lives for our security and teachers educating our sons and daughters earn so little when compared to corporate execs.

What I don’t understand, however, is the implied solution to the problem, and the blame and shame placed upon those who earn high salaries.  For those of us who regularly work on behalf of high-salary individuals and hope to one day join their ranks, this populist uprising presents a new communications challenge, as we now must not only communicate how these individuals are impacting our communities, but also defend why they should be paid to do so.

As media hasten to point out, CEOs of huge nonprofit institutions such as Florida’s Blood Centers earn very high salaries.  But those of us who recognize the impact of their work don’t question for a second that such salaries are deserved.  In our community, Florida’s Blood Centers CEO Anne Chinoda is regularly recognized as one of our community’s strongest and most important leaders, helping to drive the growth of the new “medical city.”  The salary she earns, while high in comparison to most, is competitive within her industry.

Why must we now shame her and others for being paid competitively, as most of us are in our daily jobs?  The last time I checked, compensation in our society was set by a competitive market, and not on a comparative review of “worth.”

The solution implied by some reporters and columnists is that Central Florida should stand up and say “no more!”  We will simply drop out of the competitive marketplace for talent and hire CEOs at more “reasonable” salaries so that their “excessive” pay can instead be steered (somehow) to those who are more deserving.  Anyone who thinks this would negatively impact our ability to attract the best and brightest to leadership positions is just being silly.  Why go to Austin or Charlotte or Baltimore and earn a competitive salary when you can earn much, much less in the City Beautiful?

One idea might be for local media who propose such a solution to show us all how it would work.  For example, the Orlando Sentinel could announce across-the-board salary cuts of more than 50 percent so that salaries of its leading executives might be put more closely in line with those of teachers, police and firefighters in our community.

Then, a year later the paper could report on how its executives and reporters all chose to remain in this community and work just as hard at their jobs, rather than moving to other media outlets in communities that continue to pay competitive salaries.

This would provide a great example to us all.

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