#FairFiberWage

Labour Day seemed an appropriate time to discuss the type of payment people in the fibre community get paid. As a weaver, I am one small cog in a very small community. I also live in a geographically isolated area — my choice, so I don’t feel I can charge guilds the maximum amount to bring me to their area. Over the years I have made compromises in my fees, usually charging a much smaller daily rate than other teachers in the field, in part to compensate for the high travel expenses involved in getting me from Point A to Point B.

As the discussion has unfolded, the extent of the *unfairness* of payment to teachers in fibre has been slowly revealed. The biases against paying people who do what they love. (Don’t other professionals do what *they* love? Do they get paid a ‘fair’ amount?) Why is it that someone working in a field that is predominantly female in its make up automatically gets lumped into a perception that they don’t need to pay bills and keep a roof over their heads? Perhaps they don’t *need* the money, but is that anyone else’s business to assume?

There have been repeated stories of teachers who are expected to remain unpaid for their expenses, their materials, their housing, all in order to allow the EVENT to be profitable. Without teachers, the event wouldn’t be what it is — an opportunity for practitioners of the fibre arts to learn and grow in their field. The event would simply be a marketplace. And some of them are, just that, an opportunity for vendors to meet their customers in real life, an opportunity for customers to shop in person, rather than from sample cards with little bits of the yarn/fibre to choose from. But to not pay instructors at that event enough to cover their costs and recognize them as knowledgeable? Make them sign exclusivity contracts, impeding their ability to teach elsewhere, all the while not paying them fairly?

There have also been numerous comments that the teachers at these events were not professional — were, in fact, ‘bad’. I wonder how not getting paid for your services motivates a teacher to bust a gut to *be* professional? When you are paying for the privilege of traveling long distances, being out of pocket for shipping, sharing accommodation when you would really be alone in order to re-charge your batteries, not getting enough food because you aren’t getting paid enough to buy it — all of that has to have an impact on how hard you are really willing to work?

Then there is the complaint that teachers from ‘away’ get paid more than locals. This is also patently unfair.

Personally I am willing to work for less than my usual fee for my local guild precisely *because* I get to sleep in my own bed, eat food that is healthy, not have to worry about Mother Nature throwing a monkey wrench into flight connections. That doesn’t make it ‘right’ — I choose to offer myself to my local guild as a service to them.

Another comment was that some regions are economically repressed so they can’t afford to pay more. All too true. But how is that the teachers responsibility to rectify?

There have been many questions raised in this discussion. I hope that in the end everyone in the fibre field will look long and hard at attitudes and sharpen their pencils so that no one group of people in the field winds up subsidizing any other group. And that everyone will benefit from the discussion, if nothing more than to examine their own attitudes and expectations.

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