Focus on: Equal Pay

Here’s an excellent column by Amanda Teuscher in Ohio U’s student newspaper which sums up the issues regarding the defeated Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act:
The Feminist’s Corner: Equal pay litigation is justice, not an inconvenience

There’s not much commentary around pointing out that the proposed legislation would have enabled more than just women to have more time to sue for pay discrimination. Any employee with an unequal pay case would have gained the same time extension to enable discovery of the discrepancy and timely litigation, no matter whether the people they were being paid less than were of a different race, ethnicity, sexuality, socioeconomic class or physical ability level.

The major stated objection by the Senators who voted to block the bill was that it would enable “too many lawsuits” seeking restitution for pay discrimination. The idea that companies who behave unjustly and illegally should be forced to provide restitution seems to have entirely passed them by.

When did it become the province of the Government to protect corporations rather than its citizens? This trend of legislation which essentially provides corporate welfare has become rampant in the USA (note the revisions to bankruptcy laws which benefit corporations over citizens yet again). It’s apparently also an emerging trend in other countries where economic conservative politicians hold the legislative power.

Links from FF101 readers to instances of blatant protection of corporations over the interests of citizens in other countries would be greatly appreciated.

Update: A Lurker sent me a link in email to some fine reportage by Dahlia Lithwick at Slate giving more details of the US Republican Senators arguments against the Ledbetter bill, as well as to links of the Majority and Minority Reports from the judgement made by the Supreme Court. I neglected to point out that some of the language used by Republicans just assumes that women are too stupid to know their own best interests. Despicable.

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12 comments on “Focus on: Equal Pay

  1. Wow. The Lilly bill really needed to be passed. It seems to me that the statute of limitations clock should start running at the time you find out, not at the time the discimination initially started. Isn’t the whole danger in a hidden agenda that it’s hidden?

    To see our government avoiding the right thing because too many people will seek restitution for the wrong that needs correcting just makes me scratch my head. Well, we’re just going to have to conquer in other ways for now—on my blog for female entrepreneurs, I encourage women to be the boss rather than not. At least that way we can know the boss isn’t messing with our pay. Wow….what a story.

    Vicki Flaugher

  2. Let’s say I’m hiring people for contractor work.

    One guy says, “I’ll do the job for $20/hr.”

    The other guy says, “I’ll do the same job, for $15/hr!”

    Who do you hire?

    Now let’s say the guy who did it for $15/hr afterwards says, “Wait, I want to get $20/hr for the work.”

    What do you think?

    Now lets say that the 2nd guy is actually a woman.

    If it turns out that women will consistently work for less money, then women will rule the corporate world.

    How many men were turned away from the job position, because they were demanding more money than she was willing to work for?

  3. Lion Kimbro, African American men and Latino men are consistently receiving lower wages than White men in virtually any industry you like to name in the USA.

    Do African American and Latino men dominate the corporate world?

    You left out the other factor people go by: what is the person’s experience which shows that they can actually do the job? If the person wanting $20 has good references but the person wanting $15 does not, the person demanding the higher wage often gets the job. Getting the initial experience which leads to later good references when competing against someone else with no experience often resolves down to irrational preferences.

    Your analysis would only work if people actually were the purely “rational actors” that economic theory presumes them to be. People act against their own rational self-interest all the time e.g. voting for the people who promise tax cuts which only benefit the rich when the voter in question will never qualify for them.

  4. Sorry Lion Kimbro, I’ve put your last post into moderation purely on the basis of its length – that was an essay, not a comment. Overly long blog comments stifle discussion rather than encourage it, in my experience.

    You have a blog of your own – if you want to post that detailed an argument then post it there and post a link here with a summary of your arguments.

  5. Oh, please excuse me; I didn’t realize the discussion was so lively. Sorry to have interrupted everyone. Please, by all means, carry on your discussion with all the others present here.

  6. Sarcasm’s all you’ve got? Discussion happens here in dribs and drabs, threads sometimes reviving after being moribund for months, and I’m fine with that.

    However, the threads that never revive are the ones with really long comments on them. Excessively long comments discourage the participation of others. It’s nothing personal, truly.

  7. I’m confident that I can accurately imagine LK’s essay (you’ve seen one hundred, you’ve seen them all, right?) and I’m glad it’s not there boring-ing up this lovely dribby drabby thread. His mangly comment above that ends up saying that ‘whoever works for less money will dominate the corporate world’ is simply breathtaking. If that were true then fourteen-year-olds and grad students would be telco execs and cabinet ministers…

    Limiting the options of people who are stiffed by employers simply says ‘wage disparity isn’t an issue’ and makes legally viable discrimination so much easier. E.g. my friend who worked at a factory said that although most workers were female, the few male workers always earned more, because they were put into higher-earning ‘streams’, and promoted quickly, despite that there were women working there who knew every stream inside out and had worked there for decades. Imagine the workers not having recourse to fix blatant dualistic gender-based wage discrimination.

  8. While Lion Kimbro’s comment is rubbish…I still don’t buy this ‘OMG long comments STIIIIFLE discussion!” trope. It’s CRAP.
    Short enough for you?

  9. You are, of course, entitled to that opinion.

    I disagree, based on many years of experience in net forums, and that’s why I don’t post comments that are actually essays on this blog. My blog, my rules.

    Now, do you have anything to add that’s actually on topic for the discussion of the Fair Pay Act?

  10. I’ve been wondering, it’s great that parents nowadays have the choice to both continue working (and be paid appropriately for that work), but I’m wondering how sustainable this situation is for the economy as a whole?
    Since pay levels are broadly set by supply and demand, I’d think that if families with two full-time incomes were common (not sure how true that is today?), this would tend to drive wages down quite dramatically, since these workers would be able to work for a lot less. But in that case, it would stop being viable for a family to get by (with a reasonable degree of comfort) with just one income, so that over time the choice would be pretty much eliminated – both parents would be *forced* to work by the economic realities.
    Of course that wouldn’t be so bad – certainly better than massive pay discrimination – but I’m wondering if people have a solution for this? Particularly since feminists seem to frame questions of one or both parents continuing to work after having children in terms of choice, which strikes me as not really viable in the long term? Or am I just getting my economics wrong?

    (Ok, this is only tangentially about equal pay, but this seemed the most appropriate thread for it)

    • If both parents are at the low end of the pay scale then it seems like, on the face of it, that they may both be forced to work. However, childcare is expensive to the point where it can consume about 40% of such a couple’s combined income. I know of a few families where one parent doesn’t work at all (usually the mother) because they would only be a very small amount better off monetarily. For couples where one partner has a high paying job the economics don’t demand that they both work, but rather that that partner continues to do so.

      Really, there needs to be more part-time jobs available and hours need to be more flexible to allow couples to share parenting and continue to work.

  11. True, there are extra costs that come with double incomes, and that will add a class dimension to this too. But since the two groups (people with high enough income levels (and income expectations) to afford childcare and people without) would not generally be competing for the same jobs I think you could deal with the two groups seperately?

    The part-time jobs are part of what I’m talking about – if a family’s main earner gets a good high-paying job and the other partner takes a part-time job to make some extra money, they can work for less than someone for whom (for whatever reason) this is the main source of income. So you’d expect this would drive pay down for the part-time jobs – after all, in a well-functioning equality you wouldn’t expect to pay someone for the value of their work, you pay as much as you need to get someone to take the job.
    But then I’d expect the same kind of pressure on the main earner’s pay too, and I’d worry that the outcome of all of this wouldn’t be any extra freedom or choice for people about their working arrangements, it’d just be an extra economic pressure to pair up, because if market rates are set by couples with two incomes it’s going to be harder and harder for anyone who *doesn’t* have that extra income.

    (Not that I have a better suggestion, but rather hoping someone else does)

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