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Comparable Worth Concept

October 13, 1985

On Oct. 1 you published four letters addressing the issue of comparable worth and the recent decision by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. I would first like to note that three of these four letters were written by men; moreover, all three of these gentlemen oppose the concept of comparable worth for various reasons. The purpose of this letter is to address two points raised by these gentlemen.

In his letter, D.E. Butler, president of the Merchants and Manufacturers Assn., presented several "salient" factors in support of his opposition to the concept of comparable worth. One of these was, ". . . for social and cultural reasons, worldwide tradition often dictates higher pay for some jobs than others--despite skill levels and job requirements." By invoking these unspecified "social and cultural reasons" as a justification for perpetuating inequity, Butler leaves the firmer ground of the marketplace and economics, thereby undermining his otherwise lucid argument.

Let us never forget that it was for none other than "social and cultural reasons" that black Americans were forced to sit in the back of the bus, were prevented from eating in most restaurants, and were relegated to segregated schools until the civil rights legislation of the 1950s and '60s was enacted.

The two other opponents of comparable worth, Harry A. Brand and Patrick Moody, state in their letters respectively, that if one does not want a low-paying job as a librarian, nurse, or social worker, then one should "attain the skills to be other than one of the masses" or, if one feels underpaid, one "can quit."

My first response to this facile advice is to venture that these gentlemen are themselves not librarians, nurses, social workers, or the like. Second, have Brand and Moody considered what would happen if a sizeable number of women in today's work force were able to attain the skills "to be other than one of the masses"?

Who would be displaced by this horde of aspiring women? I also wonder if it has occurred to these gentlemen how male nurses, male secretaries, male librarians, and male teachers might feel about the concept of comparable worth.

BRIGITTE SCHMIDT

San Diego

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