Women of Yale


Say "female poverty" and most people think of mothers on welfare. But female poverty has other, less expected faces. They belong to the 34-year-old assistant editor whose work requires a reading knowledge of French and German but whose $13,600 salary allows her to buy only one meal a day, and the 43-year-old editorial assistant with a master's degree who lives with her 14-year-old daughter in studio whose rent absorbs almost half of her $13,000 salary. Those women, profiled in The New York Times, are both members of Local 34 of the Federation of University Employees (A.F.L.-C.I.O.), now in the ninth week of a strike against Yale University. They maintain that their wages are low because they are women.

Despite well-publicized efforts to win women high-paying traditionally male jobs as plumbers or firefighters, about one-third of the employed women in the United States hold clerical or technical jobs like those of the women at Yale--who make up 82 percent of the 1,800 members of Local 34. These "women's jobs" pay substantially less than the jobs usually held by men, even when they require the same degree of skill, education and responsibility. The average clerical worker's salary at Yale, for example, is $13,424, while a truck driver for the university makes $18,500.

In the past twenty years, about half of all new union members have been women, and women now account for some 30 percent of the unionized work force. But although union women earn about one-third more than their unorganized sisters, they still eran less than union men, and only about 11 percent of female clerical workers belong to unions.

Local 34 is the largest group of predominantly female employees to strike over the issue of comparable worth, and their fight has implications for women around the country. District 65 (United Automobile Workers), which has been actively organizing clerical workers, is fighting to retain benefits at Columbia University; organizing drives are under way at Harvard University and several other large institutions. In the State of Washington, female civil service workers who belong to the American Federation of State, county and Municipal Employees tried another strategy. They brought a lawsuit against the state government charging that they were discriminated against on the basis of sex and asking for back pay. They won in a lower court, and the case is currently on appeal.

World processors, library clerks and union organizers are not the only people hanging on the outcome of Local 34's battle with Yale. …

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