SACRAMENTO — The Senate, over the objections of the Deukmejian Administration, Thursday passed "comparable worth" legislation to measure and recommend ways of closing the salary gap between male and female state government employees doing comparable jobs.
The bill, approved and sent to the Assembly on a 22-13 vote, would create an 11-member commission on pay equity to study the state compensation system and advise the Legislature on a course of action.
It is identical to a bill vetoed last year by Gov. George Deukmejian, who has consistently opposed legislative attempts to resolve pay equity disputes. Deukmejian contends that comparable-worth issues should be settled through collective bargaining.
Reflecting the governor's position, both the departments of Personnel Administration and Finance were listed as opponents of the bill.
Opposed by GOP
Senate Republicans vigorously opposed the measure, claiming that it was a thinly veiled step toward forcing the comparable-worth concept on private business.
"It's nothing but a foot in the door . . . that will bring economic chaos to this entire state," said GOP Caucus Chairman John Seymour of Anaheim.
In a statement that brought a sharp denunciation from Democrats, Sen. Newton R. Russell (R-Glendale) suggested that women are in lower-paid jobs mainly because they are not willing to apply for higher-paid but tougher jobs generally held by men.
"If a woman wants to get more pay and wants to be like a truck driver," Russell said, "let her go out and get a job driving a truck."
Sen. Diane Watson (D-Los Angeles) responded by suggesting that the remarks of Russell and other Republicans reflected a "bias built into the minds of some men who promote a permanent underclass."
The measure by Sen. President Pro Tem David A. Roberti (D-Los Angeles) would, in addition to setting up the commission on pay equity, declare the state's intent to create a "single, bias-free job evaluation system" for all state workers.
Under the measure, the Legislature would have no obligation to implement the commission's recommendations. However, the recommendations could be influential in salary negotiations and lawmakers' future deliberations.
Roberti, in arguing for the measure, noted that the state has been sued by an employee union, which could force a solution if the Legislature does not act. He added that the Administration's own figures indicate a 40% gap between the average salaries paid to male and female state employees.
The lawsuit Roberti referred to was filed late last year by the California State Employees Assn. and is similar to a suit brought against the state of Washington that resulted in an award of hundreds of millions of dollars to public employees there.
An existing comparable-worth task force, consisting of appointees of the Legislature and the governor, is scheduled to release its final report on June 30. The task force has broad authority to review the comparable-worth issue in both the public and private sectors.
Roberti said, however, that the current task force is not equipped to come up with a specific salary classification evaluation for the state work force.
Last week, Los Angeles city officials agreed to raise the salaries of 3,900 women in low-paid city jobs in a major concession to the idea of comparable worth.
Deukmejian last year vetoed a similar effort on the part of the Legislature when he struck $76.6 million from the state budget that was to have gone toward boosting the salaries of female employees.