Equal Pay for Comparable Worth: The Working Woman's Issue of the Eighties

Equal Pay for Comparable Worth: The Working Woman's Issue of the Eighties

Equal Pay for Comparable Worth: The Working Woman's Issue of the Eighties

Equal Pay for Comparable Worth: The Working Woman's Issue of the Eighties


The unprecedented increase in the last two decades in the numbers of women working at paid labor in the industrialized countries has given great impetus to the struggle for pay equity. As more and more women support themselves and their families and look forward with concern to what they are going to live on in their old age, they see sex-based wage discrimination as a serious problem. Growing numbers of the poor are women -- young and old -- and the children of women who are heads of households.

The opposition to comparable worth has its concerns as well. Employers fear higher labor costs. Taxpayers worry about higher taxes. Some economists and politicians and lawyers threaten that higher wages for women will cause more female unemployment. Some jurists worry that the government will get heavily involved in the business of setting wages and think this is wrong. Some conservative women support the "feminine mystique" mythology and argue that it is right for women workers to earn less than men for work of comparable value. To the extent that status is tied to pay, some people feel threatened by a rise in female pay and status. Most threatening to many is the fact that getting rid of sexbased wage discrimination means increasing the working woman's share of national income.

The pay equity issue is, therefore, an important one. But despite its importance, the policy of equal pay for comparable worth is poorly understood. My purpose in this book is to help people understand the issue and the arguments for and against it and to illustrate how it can eliminate sex discrimination in pay.

The first section of the book is introductory. It discusses the varied and controversial legal and economic interpretations of the comparable worth concept and the possibility and problems of measuring "worth" by using job evaluation techniques. Next, the history of comparable worth policy both here and abroad is described, emphasizing that the policy has a considerable record of use in the United States, Europe, Australia, and Canada.

Case studies of attempts to secure equal pay for jobs of comparable worth make up the major part of the book. For information about these cases I have interviewed people directly involved in them. As much as possible I have let these people speak for themselves.

The first study is the lively and informative story of the efforts of a union, Local 101 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), to bargain collectively with the city of San Jose for comparable worth. In this case clerical workers and librarians, two . . .

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