Interesting article in the Boston Globe a few weeks back on a husband-wife team in court to plead guilty:
…to charges they paid an immigrant they helped bring into the country illegally less than $3,000 for the 13 years she cooked, cleaned, cared for their children, and even shoveled snow for them, according to court records.
$3K for 13 years.
That works out to less than $250 a year, less than $5 a week.
Bet that’s less than the allowance that Martha and Richard Smalanskas’ three kids got. And I bet that they did a lot less for that allowance.
Authorities determined that the couple hired the nanny when she 16, when the couple lived in Bolivia. After three years, they brought her to the United States and helped her get false documentation to make it appear as if she was related to them.
Once here, they took her travel documents away, and she was required to work long hours: From 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. six days a week, although she was allowed to leave early some Saturdays. She had Sundays off. (Source: Boston.com)
The indentured servant had been promised $100 a month – which wasn’t paid. Then she was given a promised raise to $150 a month – which wasn’t paid, either.
Well, pay back can be a bitch, and in this case, the pay back will be $150,000 in restitution that the Smalanskases will make. While $150K is a goodly amount, especially to someone who had been making less than $250 a year, the judge has estimated that, based on prevailing wage standards, the former servant – she left the couple’s employ nearly three years ago – really should have earned $300K during her near-slave time. (The couple could also have been sent to prison for ten years for immigration law violations, so they should be counting their lucky stars that they’re just facing restitution and probation.)
What I would find interesting here is some explanation of how Richard and Martha Smalanskas, who – chances are – are not evil and sadistic monsters, justified paying this poor young woman so poorly.
We treated her just like a member of the family…
We always gave her everything she needed…
She never complained…
The children loved her…
She loved the children…
We took her on nice vacations…
We gave her Christmas presents every year…
She had her own room and bathroom…
It’s not like she was held prisoner…
How did they even come up with fake-pretend promised salary of $100 – later raised to $150 (why not higher, given that they weren’t going to pay it, anyway)?
Let’s see, she’s on duty 14 hours a day, six days a week, but, let’s face it, some of that time she’s just sitting on her duff watching the baby sleep – or learning English from Oprah. So let’s say that, rather than 84 hours a week, she’s working-working more like 48 hours. But let’s round that to 40 to make the arithmetic easier.
A buck an hour sounds fair, doesn’t it? Maybe a little less, given that we’re giving her the same room and board we give our kids and ourselves. Plus gym-equivalent, what with the snow-shoveling and all.
If we multiply that by 52 weeks a year – hey, she doesn’t need to take a vacation; why her life’s practically a vacation as-is, especially compared to life in Bolivia; besides, where’s she going to go, given that we have her travel documents – that would be about $2,000 a year.
Which sounds like way, way, way too much for someone who’s really a family member, and who’d probably just as soon do all this for free, anyway.
It’s not like we all don’t do it at one time or another, usually about something small, but I’m always intrigued about just how people are able to justify crappy behavior, and justify it enough that they’re able to live with themselves.
And what was going on in the mind of this young Bolivian woman during her long, ill-paid slog with the Salamanskas family?
Yes, she probably did love the kids, and she probably had a nicer room than she had back home in Bolivia.
But being marooned out in Harvard, Massachusetts – a community best known for its orchards and for being the home of the Slaves of Mary, the crackpot religious group founded by renegade priest Leonard Feeney after he was excommunicated in the 1950’s – how must that have felt? Going days, months, years without friends your own age. Living in a place with little by way of entertainment or public transportation.
It’s not like we’re talking Cambridge, Massachusetts here – vibrant, urban, polyglot city. We’re talking white-bread, well-to-do, nothing-doing Harvard, Massachusetts here.
Anyway, what the Smalanskases paid their servant girl was an out and out disgrace – less over a thirteen year period than I pay our cleaning people in one year for a two-hour cleaning every two weeks.
Okay, N&G don’t get room and board. But they don’t have to shovel snow, either.
Glad that the nanny will finally be getting something to show for her time as an innocent abroad.