Friday, August 5, 2016

Equal Pay for Equal Work

"I'm not gonna spend the rest of my life working my ass off and getting nowhere just because I followed rules that I had nothing to do with setting up. OK?"
--Tess McGill (Working Girl)

Jeff Tucker discusses the original meaning of 'equal pay for equal work' during the original feminist workplace movement of a century ago. Unlike today's meaning, which encourages government to inject force into the system, the original meaning was motivated to take force out of the system.

Back then, laws had been passed that limited the work that women could do. For instance, nearly all states had passed laws that restricted daily working hours for women (e.g., not before 6 am and not after 10 pm). Other laws limited the number of hours that women could work in a day (e.g., 9) or in a week (e.g., 50). Some welfare-oriented laws even compensated women for not working in favor of staying home and raising children.

One organization that fought these discriminatory practices was the Women's Equal Opportunity League, centered primarily in New York. The League sought to repeal or impede legislation that prohibited women from competing with men on an equal basis in the labor market. The League even fought against a women's only minimum wage. "Such a bill, affecting women only," the League observed, "purportedly for their benefit, would really be a serious handicap to them in competing with men workers for desirable positions."

The goal of a century ago was to get government force out of the labor market for the betterment of women workers.

Ironically, the modern feminist workplace movement seeks to put government aggression back into the labor market. Should it occur, it will be to the detriment of women workers.

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