Run me my money–a popular African American Vernacular English (AAVE) phrase that simply means, “Pay me the money that is owed.” It’s time for organizations to pay us our full wage and stop conditioning portions of our wages based on future performance or loyalty. I’m specifically talking about nondiscretionary bonuses. As a single mom myself, bonuses help pay for my child’s tutoring, sports classes, and summer programs. I couldn’t afford any of these extracurricular activities without them. 

I’ve worked in and around the financial industry for almost 20 years. My salary is comparable to most mid-to-senior level positions in my industry. Bonuses are an expected supplement to our annual salary for not only my industry but many others as well. Many of us not only expect an annual bonus from our employer but we rely on it. Some of us use it to pay down credit card or student loan debt, increase our children’s college tuition fund or pay for the annual family vacation. Employers use bonuses as recruitment tool to attract and maintain the best talent. In fact, some employers will add the annual bonus amount to your employment contract to reflect your expected annual income. We get excited when we see those numbers and immediately commit to being the best employees we can be. At the end of the year, we get so excited for our upcoming annual bonus only to be shocked at the structure of the pay-out. Instead of receiving the full amount of what is owed, you receive a letter that states that you get 30% now and the rest in two years if you stay with the company. Bonuses are for past performances not future. Why am I forced to wait to be paid in two years for work I’ve already completed?

Employers should not be allowed to withhold earnings and structure pay however they please. This type of wage theft should be banned in Maryland, which is the sixth state with the highest cost of living. Congress should prohibit this unethical behavior that is currently allowed in our state. Middle-class families deserve to rely on their annual bonuses like any other wage. Not every middle-class issue involves taxes. Often our financial strains derive from our employers. Requiring employers to fulfill their terms of the contract by paying us our full wage will bring many Marylanders a lot of financial relief.

By Lanham resident Silva Wells