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’ve used many of these columns to advocate for lifeguard pay. I believe that for the work they do, the training required and the responsibility — no less than human lives — they are grossly underpaid.
Our 2008 Salary
Survey once again bears that out. The majority of senior
lifeguards, about 42 percent, earn $7 to $8.99 an hour. Average
hourly pay for nonsupervisory retail employees is $12.58, according
to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics. The disparity between those
two figures speaks for itself.
The reasons for
underpaying lifeguards are complex and solutions difficult, as the
feature story accompanying our salary survey makes clear. I
encourage all aquatics professionals to read it.
But I want to focus
on another aspect of the salary survey that gets little notice: the
pay of aquatics managers and supervisors. Just as it is for
lifeguards, this amount is also shamefully low. How low? Nearly
one-quarter of all aquatics managers earn $14 to $17.99 an hour,
according to our survey. That’s the equivalent of $29,000 to
$37,000 per year. For supervisors, it’s even worse. Almost 45
percent report earning $9.99 or less up to $12.99 per hour.
That’s $21,000 to $27,000 a year. By comparison, the median
pay for a retail store manager is $41,000 a year, according to
a Web site that uses government data and real earnings reports to
produce compensation profiles.
OK, so maybe you say
retailing can’t be compared with aquatics. It’s more
like firefighters and police. Fair enough. That comparison is even
more damning. Pay for first-line firefighter supervisors ranges
between $42,000 to $67,000 a year. For police, it’s $47,000
Why the difference
between these emergency supervisors and aquatics? You could argue
that police officers and firefighters have more dangerous jobs.
Maybe. But I think it comes down to something else —
police have powerful unions that have helped them earn a fair wage
for the dangerous and critical work they do. In fact, the category
of unionized protective service workers, which would include police
and firefighters, earns over 56 percent more than nonunionized
workers, according to the Labor Bureau.
professionals deserve to be recognized for the work they do. And
the best way to do that is to organize a union of aquatics
workers who have been underpaid or mistreated have gained
considerable power and earnings through unions. Aquatics
professionals from lifeguards to operators are clearly in that
more to unionizing than simply organizing and making demands. To be
successful, workers must believe that they deserve better pay,
better treatment, better conditions. They must have the respect for
themselves and their profession to demand that they be shown that
respect. I fear that aquatics professionals lack that
misunderstand. In my years in aquatics, professionals have shown
themselves to be some of the most passionate and dedicated
I’ve ever met. Many consider it a privilege to be in
where they and the industry get it wrong. The privilege should be
the public’s — the privilege to go to a swimming pool
or waterpark and know that they will be safe. Professionals should
be paid fairly for providing that privilege, and make no apologies
for demanding that compensation.
It’s time for
aquatics professionals to realize what they’re worth and get
the respect — and the pay — they deserve. It’s
time for aquatics professionals of the world to unite!