Common Dreams has posted an article by Michelle Chen that examines one reason for wage disparities between men and women. In many states, employers can fire employees who discuss their salaries with other employees. Last week the Senate failed to pass The Paycheck Fairness Act, a bill that would have prevented this practice (if the bill passed the House, which would not have happened). How serious is this issue? Chen cites a 2003 study claiming that 1/3 of employers have rules that prevent employees from discussing pay with co-workers.
Why isn’t this practice a violation of the First Amendment? Chen explains that employers claim that pay is similar to a “trade secret,” confidential information. She also reminds readers of Lilly Ledbetter’s story. Ledbetter was doing the same job as her male peers at Goodyear Tire, but did not know she was paid less. When she found out and sued, the court ruled that she had not acted in a timely manner even though she did not have the information because of the employer rules described above.
I recommend that you read Chen’s story to get the full sense of this story. Should employers have this right? I don’t think so. Yes, employees should not discuss proprietary information. Salary does not fall in this realm. Instead, employers are bullying employees to control them and keep them afraid. This is another reason why American workers should support stronger labor laws and unions.
Writing in Daily Kos, Laura Clawson reports on Equal Pay Day, the date on which the average woman’s pay catches up to the average man’s pay from 2013. As some like to point out, many women work in lower paying jobs. However, many women performing the same jobs as men are paid less. As Clawson asks, why are women stuck in these jobs? This discrimination is one more example of why and how our economy has stalled. Job numbers are important. Wages and wage disparity is a much more significant problem, especially in an economy that depends on consumer spending.
It’s documented that women make less than men despite decades of protests. Now we learn that the first female CEO of General Motors, Mary Bara, will only earn 48% of what her predecessor, Dan Akerson, was paid. In fact, according to a report on Huffington Post, Akerson will still be paid more than Bara in his current role as a consultant to the firm. Last week I read a report on minimum wage that broke out findings by gender. More than 60% of people earning the minimum wage were women. Either we need to figure out some way to achieve gender equity in wages – or women should start doing less work.