BPW Foundation's Women Misbehavin' Blog

Well behaved women never make history

Missing the Women’s Movement on Pay Equity

Posted by ptanji on March 8, 2011

I get that there is no ‘women’s movement’ per se these days.  Not like the 70’s, 80’s and even the 90’s.  But, as I, pay equity activist extraordinaire, meet with lobbyists, advocates, and the well meaning (but not well meaning enough to act) members of the general public — I long for the days when I didn’t feel so alone in this pay equity fight.

I know there are millions, maybe even billions, of women who support what I do, that is to uphold the pay equity laws in Minnesota, but the fact is its just me and a few other extremely dedicated beautiful volunteer ‘lobbyists’ working on this issue.  Especially, when there are sooooooooooooooooo many highly paid lobbyists on the opposing side. I met with three this morning alone.

I do know why this is.  The general public, including some brilliant sisters and brothers of the world, think that pay equity is a done deal.  We fixed it in 1963 — with the Equal Pay Act and when states around the nation passed their own versions thereof.  In Minnesota we did this in 1967 ish. Yup that’s almost 50 years ago!  But,  here in Minnesota, where we have the toughest pay equity laws anywhere on the planet (at least in the public sector) — pay equity is still not a done deal!

Until cities, counties and school districts in Minnesota can prove that they will never backslide again into those dark days when women were eating dog food to supplement their city clerk typist pay — its not a done deal!  And, by the way, local jurisdictions were given the opportunity to prove they wouldn’t back slide in 2003 when a two year moratorium on pay equity reporting (to the state) was enacted.  Guess what — 5 years later the amount of local jurisdictions who did back slide was 50% as opposed to  25% when there was a three year reporting cycle.  Yes — there is backsliding even in a three year period but five years, yikes!

We have much re-educating to do.  And it is working.  One Senator did ‘pull’ his anti-pay equity bill.  But, there are three more pending.  And the reason these well intended (at least what they will say publicly) folks want to kill pay equity is because of the administrative burden.  Yup – balancing the budgets on the $1.59 pay raise of a secretary who was doing work of similar value to the custodians. Other gripes include such notions as ‘we had to raise pay for three male job classes because of pay equity’.  Seems some city and county staff  blame all salary increases on pay equity reporting.  But, any pay raise that justifiably can be called a pay equity raise are those given to women doing jobs of similar work value to jobs done by men.

This bill is not about equal pay for equal work.  That notion doesn’t work — unless you want to sue your boss.  This bill is about fairness inherent in our public sector’s wage setting practices.  That fairness includes gender.  However, the squeaky wheel is getting the grease in Minnesota.  It’s going to take a women’s movement or whatever we want to call it this time to pay attention.    Wake up sleepy giant — we need you!

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