Loving a job doesn't pay the bills. The idea that a job is a passion obfuscates the reality that a job is an economic contract.

The implication that love is a suitable stand-in for job security, workplace protections or fair pay is a commonly held belief, especially in so-called dream jobs writing, cooking and working in the arts, where the privilege to do the work is seen as a form of compensation itself.

But the rhetoric that a job is a passion or a ''labor of love'' obfuscates the reality that a job is an  economic contract. The assumption that it isn'tsets up the condition for exploitation.

Indeed, creative, mission driven and prestigious jobs often take advantage of employees' love for what they do. 

According to one 2020 study, employees see poor treatment of workers - such as expecting overtime work without pay or asking people to do demeaning tasks that aren't part of their job descriptions - as more acceptable if the workers are thought to be passionate about what they do.

THIS STEMS from bosses tacit assumptions that their employees would do the work even if they weren't paid.

That seems to be the message that some Writers Guild of America [ W.G.A.] members have gotten. '' Writing is a noble vocation,'' says Charles Rogers, a writer and showrunner who is on strike in Los Angeles.

'' But the industry is set up to make writers feel like they should be grateful just to be here.'' Employers then rely on employees' indebtedness and the proverbial line of people out the door who would happily take their place to justify paying them less than they deserve.

The idea that employees work for something other than money is also pervasive in industries that are geared toward helping people, such as education.

'' Teaching is a calling, '' tweeted Mayor Eric Adams of New York City a few weeks ago. '' You don't do it for the money, you do it because you believe in the kids that come into your classrooms.''

That may sound like reverence, but the New York City teachers' union contract expired last September, and Mr. Adams has resisted pay increases that keep up with inflation. Teachers need better compensation, not platitudes celebrating teacher appreciation week.

In a 2018 paper, Fobazi Ettarh, who at the time was librarian, coined a term for how the perceived righteousness of her industry obscured the issues that existed within it.

Ms. Ettarh called the phenomenon vocational awe, which she defined as the belief that as a workplace, libraries were inherently good, and therefore supposedly beyond critique. When a workplace is seen as virtuous, she claimed, it's easy for workers to be exploited.

'' In the face of grand missions of literature and freedom, advocating for your full lunch break feels petty,'' she wrote.

Ms. Ettarh had known she wanted to become a librarian since she was a teenager. When she was studying for her library science degree, her professors loved to wax poetic about becoming a librarian is a calling and libraries serve as the last truly democratic institutions.

But from the other side of the reference desk, she saw how industry's ideals concealed its low pay.

In her first position of out of grad school, Ms. Ettarh was told be her supervisor, 

'' No one becomes a librarian to make a living wage.'' [ She was making $48,000 at the time ] She eventually left the industry.

During the pandemic, vocational awe was on full display from educators who were told that they were doing God's work but also to make do with what they had to health care professionals who were deemed essential yet often not given compensation or protection commensurate with the severity of their work.

The perceived righteousness of honorable industries covered up poor conditions like frosting on a burned cake.

The Publishing continues. The World Students Society thanks author Simone Stolzoff.


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