Developments in Industrial Relations
Developments in Industrial Relations
Comparable worth settlements
After suffering some reverses in the last year, backers of the comparable worth concept of pay equity were heartened by a settlement concluding the 5-year controversy between the State of Washington and several unions. Under the out-of-court settlement, nearly 35,000 State workers in predominantly female occupations will receive pay adjustments over a 6-year period to bring them to parity with other State workers in jobs requiring comparable levels of responsibility, skill, and training. In general, backers of the comparable worth concept contend that some workers are underpaid simply because they are in "women's occupations,' such as secretaries, librarians, and nurses.
The events leading to the settlement began in 1981 when nine female employees filed suit against the State, contending that a study sponsored by the State showed pay discrimination against women. In 1983, a Federal district judge found the State guilty of pay discrimination under the Federal Civil Rights Act and ordered it to retroactively correct the disparity. In September 1985, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned that decision, but the State legislature had already appropriated $41.6 million to finance a settlement to be negotiated with the State, County, and Municipal Employees and other unions representing State employees.
The accord, which will require additional appropriations to cover the $106.5 million total cost, provides for the worth of jobs to be measured in terms of skill, effort, training, education, responsibility, and working conditions. During the first 15 months, $46.5 million will be available for pay adjustments, followed by $10 million allocations on July 1 of 1987 through 1992. The settlement does not provide for retroactivity of the pay adjustments. The 35,000 employees will also receive the same general wage increases the unions negotiate for other employees in their bargaining units during the 6-year period.
Pay equity adjustments also were a feature of an initial contract between the State, County, and Municipal Employees and the city of Chicago for 7,500 white-collar employees. Under the 3-year contract, all employees will receive wage increases totaling about 13 percent. In addition, 3,500 employees in 79 predominantly female job classifications will receive an additional 5 percent, which will be accomplished by raising these workers by one pay grade. According to the parties, 86 percent of the workers scheduled for upgrading are women.
In return for the upgrading, the union agreed to drop sex discrimination charges it had filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against the city in 1982.
The parties also established a joint job evaluation committee to study the city's pay system and recommend changes, if necessary.
In another area, the parties moved to end political favoritism by adopting criteria to be used in selecting workers for jobs and promotions.
State, County, and Municipal Employees' President Gerald W. McEntee hailed the accord as a "demonstration of the nationwide momentum on pay equity,' despite the Appeals Court ruling in the Washington State case. McEntee said that during 1985, the union's "blueprint for equality' program had resulted in pay adjustments of $12 million for 4,000 clericals and librarians in Los Angeles; $20 million for 6,000 workers in the Iowa State government; $40 million for 9,000 employees of the State of Minnesota; $9.1 million for 10,000 employees of the State of Wisconsin; $5.6 million for 9,000 employees of the State of Connecticut; and $36 million to be used for adjusting the pay of thousands of employees of the State of New York.
In another pay equity agreement, the Auto Workers' initial contracts with the State of Michigan included special adjustments (20 cents an hour retroactive to October 1, 1985, and 20 cents effective October 1, 1986) for 70 percent of the 21,000 employees in the two bargaining units. …