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Comparable Worth Concept

October 01, 1985

Prof. David L. Kirp of UC Berkeley, in his article (Editorial Pages, Sept. 12), "Comparative Worth: Take It Out of the Courts," suggests that the basic reason for employer resistance to pay equity is just plain good economics: " . . . if wages of workers, mainly women, on the bottom economic ladder are substantially increased they may be priced right out of their jobs." As Councilwoman Picus so well observed in her article on the subject, high costs and economic catastrophe were the arguments used against the abolishment of slavery and the passing of child labor laws.

Also, Kirp suggests that mechanics get paid more than mental health workers do because the work is gritty and unpleasant. I suggest that perhaps the reason for the pay scale differences is that our society values our cars more than our people's minds. It may have nothing to do with a greater number of women being in the field of mental health than men.

The professor suggests that job comparisons cannot be made; one cannot compare oranges and apples--it's too subjective. I suggest that trying to accomplish fairness is a subjective process. Fairness is open to interpretation, but that does not mean that we in society should give up trying to accomplish "fairness for all."

Furthermore, I suggest that we look at some statistics: 57% of women in this nation are working outside of their homes. Doesn't it make good business sense for them to be paid more fairly? With more earnings they have more buying power and can better help turn the wheels of American industry. Sexual discrimination is not, in fact, good business.

In closing, Prof. Kirp, please tell me is the salary of a public policy professor greater than that of an economics professor, or vice versa? Which subject merits a greater salary? Or has the world of academia solved that problem for itself by basing pay scales on education, years of service and productivity?


Los Angeles

Nuban is president of the West Los Angeles/Beach Cities National Organization for Women.

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