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What It’s Like Working at a Company Where Everyone Knows Your Salary

Can pay transparency solve income inequality?

by Judy Cai and Kristin Fraser
Jun 20 2019, 5:55pm

SEATTLE — When Molly Moon Neitzel opened her first ice cream shop here 11 years ago, her goal was to build a company that practiced progressive values. Now, with seven stores and more than 150 employees, Molly Moon’s Homemade Ice Cream has done it — employees get free health care, 12 weeks of paid maternity leave, and subsidies for public transportation.

And now they get something else that's pretty progressive: access to each other's pay.

“It means that you can see your own pay and you can see all of your coworkers' pay, by name,” said Neitzel, who describes the U.S.' longstanding corporate practice of pay secrecy as just more white patriarchal oppression.

Neitzel keeps employees’ salaries in an online internal spreadsheet. Before going live with the information, the company took a year to audit everyone’s pay. The audit found no discrepancies among the salaries of corporate staff, but did find differences in what store employees were making.

Ice cream scoopers could bolster their wages with tips and often earned more than shift leaders, shop managers, and back-of-house workers. This was especially true of scoopers who worked busier hours, at stores in wealthier neighborhoods.

To address the problem, Neitzel decided to eliminate tips, increase ice cream prices, and raise base wages to $18 an hour. She also met with every employee individually to explain the changes. Neitzel’s confident she’ll be able to maintain pay transparency as her company grows.

“I'm super thankful that we did it with just over 100 employees. Later this year we'll have about 200, and we've just created a nice foundation of honesty and transparency that everybody can build off of,” Neitzel said.

This segment originally aired June 12, 2019, on VICE News Tonight on HBO.

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