Rights and Your Wallet

One of the goals of this blog is the overall empowerment of stenographers. Arm people with knowledge and ideas, and hope it inspires them to take on goals previously believed to be unobtainable. There’s a single Latin phrase I fell in love with, “a posse ad esse,” which translates roughly to “from impossibility to actuality.” This is the concept of envisioning something you would like to occur, and working backwards in your mind as to how you can actually make it happen.

To this end, today I come with a cautionary tale. In life we are faced with choices. We have hundreds or thousands of choices per day. We may choose to act. We may choose to wait. We may choose to support or oppose another actor. Sometimes in life there’s relatively little we can do except trust another actor to act on our behalf. Sometimes, though,  we tell ourselves there’s nothing we can do so that we don’t feel so bad about not doing anything.

Well it’s worth noting that our inaction can cost us a lot of money. This happened recently to a group of people I know and love. I’ll give the short, easy version of the story. In 2004, this group’s employer did something that apparently cost them money, and a lot of it. Well another group in Long Island sued over it and won that suit. The New York City group waited for Long Island to win before they sued. An appellate panel in New York recently ruled that they had only a short time after the event in 2004 to file, and by waiting, they waived their rights.

Imagine that. Thousands and thousands of dollars lost for dozens or hundreds of employees because of a decision to wait. I’m not saying the Court of Appeals can’t rule differently, but I am certainly stating we must all learn from this. We must assert our rights. Our right to speech. Our right to engage our political representatives. Our right to advocate for ourselves whenever and wherever we can.

In the market, particularly when it comes to employment, people I’ve spoken to frame it as, “well, if the employer is only willing to pay you X, X is all you are worth.” I say they’re incorrect. For those of us that are employees, the bottom line is labor is a commodity just like any other, to be bought and sold at a negotiated price. Your time and labor has a value, and it’s in your best interest to work towards the price you charge being higher in whatever way you can, be it negotiation or skills development. If you are a freelancer, particularly a freelance stenographer, there is another dimension. You have your commodity/service, the transcript or the CART work. But then often ignored is the value of time. For some, this is reclaimed via an appearance fee. For others, the price of the service goes up to reimburse them for the would-be labor costs of hiring themselves.

Plainly stated, do not be complacent. Improve your skills on the machine and off. Be a better negotiator. Network with other success stories and see what they do. Feel free to pick and choose the best of people’s ideas, but never feel obligated to copy them completely because you are different and your road to success may be different. Finally, on top of all else, if you have a legal right to do something, weigh carefully the pros and cons of doing it or not doing it, because it just might cost you thousands of dollars.

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