WASHINGTON — The General Federation of Women's Clubs announced Thursday it opposes the concept of comparable worth as a means of overcoming wage discrimination between men and women.
Existing laws providing comprehensive protection from wage discrimination should be enforced vigorously to solve the problem of unfair pay disparities between men and women, said Jeri Winger, president of the 500,000-member federation.
There would be substantial costs associated with instituting a comparable worth system and "we feel that it would force many small businesses out of business," Winger said.
Theory of Comparable Worth
Comparable worth is the theory of paying men and women the same wage when they have different jobs that require equal training and have comparable responsibility.
The head of the National Committee on Pay Equity, a coalition of labor, civil rights and women's groups, objected to the federation's stand.
"It's unfortunate when women stand in the way of all women fighting for fair wages," said Claudia Wayne, executive director of the pay equity group. "Two-thirds of women in the labor force are either the sole support of their household or their husbands earn less than $15,000 a year . . . It's sad to see other women (in the federation) who may have other means of support fight this."
'Same Scare Tactics'
Wayne also said the argument that comparable worth will hurt businesses economically constitutes "the same scare tactics" used in the past to oppose minimum wage and civil rights legislation.
To achieve the goal of comparable worth, Winger said, "arbitrary mechanisms to evaluate the relative worth of different jobs would become a basic part of our existing economic system.
"Such an extensive imposition of subjective job-worth judgments would radically alter our present competitive market system."
Winger said that while closing the wage gap between men and women is a difficult problem that must be addressed, "one thing is abundantly clear: The wage gap cannot be closed by government intervention in the labor market."
The international service organization held its annual convention earlier this month in Houston, where delegates unanimously adopted a resolution opposing comparable worth.