Turns out, that’s a very intimate question, tied up in identity, self-worth and a whiff of secrecy.
We know the broad numbers. The average Tampa Bay resident makes $45,434 annually. Our average service job pays just $26,305. Lots of folks make Florida’s minimum wage of $8.25 an hour. There are four billionaires who call Tampa Bay home.
But dry statistics can be boring, while people are interesting. Inspired by Parade magazine’s list of what regular Americans earn doing their jobs, we put together an earnings snapshot of the Tampa Bay area. It’s not scientific, but it illuminates in a way a headline or number can’t capture.
So that meant asking people what they make. I thought it would be easy.
People were very reluctant to talk about their income. Some feared discipline from their bosses. Others feared jealousy from colleagues (if they made too much) or judgment from friends (if they made too little). A few low-earners didn’t want to discourage people from entering the field they love. (And public officials, paid by your tax dollars, are part of the public record.)
Below are some of the brave souls who shared their earnings.
Let’s start with me. I make $39,000.
Activist and pastor
*$10,800 from Social Security and $2,000 from Farmworkers Self-Help Inc.
Norma Godinez didn’t die in vain.
The 5-year-old and daughter of migrant farmworkers was killed in 1981 after an accident in a field. Her death kick-started the activism of Margarita Romo, who has dedicated her life to improving the lives of the people who still labor picking fruits, vegetables and nuts.
Romo, who grew up working in the fields, founded Farmworkers Self-Help Inc. in 1982 in Dade City as a direct response to Godinez’s death.
“Children should not be in the field,” Romo said. “Children should be in a place that’s safe.”
Today, Farmworkers Self-Help is a lifeline for those field workers, providing English classes, translation services and a soup kitchen. The group helps pair those in need of legal assistance with family and immigration attorneys and gives rides to Moffitt Cancer Center. It connects undocumented parents who are being deported back to Mexico with legal adults willing to adopt their American children. The organization fostered a church, a barbershop and a fruit stand and also runs theater and dance groups for children.
Some of the children who have passed through the organization have become doctors and lawyers. Others have died or are in prison.
Times senior news researcher Caryn Baird and staff writers Marc Topkin, Rick Stroud, Andrew Meacham, Colette Bancroft, Jay Cridlin, Christopher Spata, Jeffrey S. Solochek, Marlene Sokol, Craig Pittman, Tara McCarty, Jamal Thalji, Graham Brink and Amy Hollyfield contributed to this report.