Congratulations to Ronda Kaysen and Architectural Record for their timely and important article on overtime pay and its effect on our profession. I want to expand on some of its points and put the debate—good or bad for architecture?—into a larger context. In this, I won't dwell on the obvious: The firms that are resistant to paying overtime in an expanded field will be breaking the law; and AIA silence on this is an indication that it is still (and always has been) an organization of firm owners, not the 85 percent of architectural workers who actually produce a firm's work.
The broader issue is what the resistance of firms like HKS (and others mentioned who refused to talk for Kaysen's piece) implies; namely, that architecture remains stuck in a concept of architectural production that is not only outdated—look at how IT firms work—but elitist. Are we surprised that the profession is 99.9% white and upper-class, when any smart, first-in-the-family, college-bound student will look to see whether their expensive education will yield a living wage? The shocking thing is not that there is obliviousness to how labor factors into a business model, or that firm owners are happy not to make the case for better fees, since they can just pass on the bad pay to their staff; rather, it is that we don't recognize that the 19th-century way of working is rooted in an aristocratic class that, as a "liberal" profession, we think we have transcended.
The resistance to overtime pay is just a symptom of a much larger cancer in the profession, one that keeps our elitism intact and, as a result, makes it easy for our clients to think we are not really concerned with their bottom line or their ongoing happiness after our publication photos have been taken. How can we be surprised that they resist paying us better?
Peggy Deamer is a professor at the Yale School of Architecture and a principal at Deamer Architects. She was interviewed for the story "New Federal Rules Will Redefine Overtime Pay for Architects" by Ronda Kaysen, which will appear in the August, 2016, issue of Architectural Record.