Business, Advocates and Unions: Their Role in the Shaping of the Comparable Worth Issue Within the Government's Guidelines in the 1980's
Comparable Worth. Two inocuous personnel words that have given equal rights in wages and salaries a new meaning. Taken separately, these two words are common parts of our everyday language. "Comparable" is an adjective for capable of or suitable for a comparison. "Worth" refers to value as determined by money, quality or esteem. When taken together, however, their definition does not become as clear. Some people define "comparable worth" as "a means of raising the income of working women."1 Others say it is "a practice... designed to increase the pay of workers in female-dominated fields such as nursing to the level of men in a field requiring comparable labor."2 For our purposes, the definition will be the one put forth by the U. S. Supreme Court which states, that comparable worth is "a comparison of the intrinsic value or worth of various jobs within an organization or community." Whatever the definition, people's own ideas of comparable worth vary depending on their needs and ideas. This can be seen with businesses, advocates and unions as they develop their role in the comparable worth issue of the 1980's. Whether they take comparable worth to be an issue of economics or strictly a woman's issue; whether they think the issue will afffect their profit, political position or membership and and the way in which these groups view everyone elses' positions affect how they deal with comparable worth. With U. S. Supreme Court interpretations as the background, these three groups are interpreting their positions in the best possible light to protect themselves. Each group feels its survival is dependent on the defeat or survival of comparable worth and that no other group understands the others position. But all of these groups do have one thing in common: their information is founded in the government's and court's action or inaction in the comparable worth issue. In this paper, I discuss each area: business, advocates and unions, separately. This enables us to see the strong points as well as the inconsistencies within a single argument. Furthermore, by understanding each of these groups within the context of political discussions in the 1980's, one can begin to see how effective each group will be in defending their position. With this in mind, I will begin this paper with a brief history of comparable worth, the laws it has been based on and the arguments presented by businesses, advocates and unions.