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Pay Equity Campaign to Increase Wages of 940; Most Are Women

March 19, 1987|DARYL KELLEY | Times Staff Writer

LONG BEACH — A campaign for equal pay--begun six years ago by a handful of disgruntled women over brown-bag lunches--will result in average wage increases of $1,054 a year for 940 city workers by July, 1988.

The 940 employees, about three-fourths of them women, will receive unscheduled hourly salary hikes ranging from a few cents to $2.82 because a new city study found that they were paid less than others whose skill and value are comparable.

About half of the raises, which total $1.4 million, will go to clerks, typists and secretaries. But 162 guards in the male-dominated municipal security force also will get increases. The biggest raises will go to nurses, librarians and recreation supervisors, whose pay was rated the most inequitable in the city.

The average raise of 4.4% will come in two increments. The first will be paid in July and the second a year later, although some workers with the greatest inequities will get the full raise this year. Nearly 70% of the city's 1,035 women employees will get raises.

"This is a change in principle and policy for this employer. . . . It helps those who for too long have been discriminated against, the women of our society," said Walter Miller, executive director of the City Employees Assn.

Two Other Cities Did It

Miller said the city's agreement to study the comparable worth of its jobs, and increase pay accordingly, is unusual among local governments in California. Only Los Angeles and San Jose have similar agreements.

At least 15 states, though not California, are implementing comparable-worth provisions through law, executive action, labor negotiations or court settlements.

Long Beach agreed to study the issue and set aside the $1.4 million for equity raises last year during bargaining with the City Employees Assn., which represents 3,000 of the 4,100 full-time municipal workers. A 1985 city study had found that women workers were paid 72% of the median income of male employees.

The new study did not compare salaries of men and women workers directly. Instead, it analyzed 73 city job classifications, comparing them for skill level, reasoning ability and accountability, plus considering physical effort, working conditions and hazards.

It Documents Their Belief

Karen Todd, one of about a dozen women who in 1980 began meeting over lunch at the union office to talk about pay equity, said the city study is a victory since it documents what her group has been saying all along: Women are paid less than men for jobs of comparable worth.

"It's a step in the right direction," Todd said. But she was not pleased that she will get no raise. Her job classification, accounting machine operator, is being phased out, so it was not included in the study, she said.

Maureen Nuccio, a nurse practitioner who joined Todd on the pay-equity bargaining committee last year, called the study a breakthrough for nurses.

"This study compared nursing with different male-dominated jobs like plumber, electrician, construction inspector, community development analysts and surveyors," Nuccio said. "Nurses will be able to point to this and say, 'See, what we've been saying is true.' "

Some Doctoral Duties

As a nurse who performs some duties usually reserved for a physician, Nuccio will get a wage increase of $2.82 hourly, or $5,866 annually, on July 1. That will bring her up to $41,773 a year. Among nursing classifications, raises varied from 42 cents an hour to the top $2.82.

More typical of pending wage increases is Tammy Sapp's. As a junior clerk-typist, she will get raises totaling about 50 cents an hour over the next 16 months.

"Most women are paid under what men are paid, and I think it's great something is being done about it," said Sapp, who has monitored the issue.

As a group, 342 clerk-typists will get increases ranging from 35 to 60 cents an hour. For a five-year typist in Sapp's class, that would mean an annual pay increase of $1,169 to a total of $23,483.

Raise Said Long Overdue

Veteran librarian Barbara Davis, who supervises a staff of 14, said her 97-cents-an-hour increase is long overdue.

"This issue has been very close to my heart and to the hearts of all librarians," Davis said. "We all have at least master's degrees. But we're a woman-dominated field, and we've found that people in comparable positions are much higher paid."

Thirty-nine librarians will get hourly raises of from 72 cents to 97 cents. For Davis, that means a $2,018 annual raise to $40,710. After recounting her education and responsibilities, which include personally working a reference desk, she said:

"I don't think $38,000 is very much money for that. There's been some talk that this (raise) is the top for us. Phooey to that."

Miller, who praised the city for its cooperation, also said that pay equity will arise again in 1989 contract negotiations. The union will attempt to negotiate raises for employees not included this time and to upgrade some salaries that remain below parity, he said.

'The Issue Is Resolved'

But William H. Storey, city personnel director, said: "This should wrap it up. The issue is fairly much resolved."

According to Storey, wage increases ranged from 2.5% to 16.3%, with 324 workers getting 2.5%, another 572 receiving 5.2% and hikes of 7.8% to 16.3% going to 46 more.

Before recommending salary increases, both city management and the employees association reviewed a private consultant's study that listed job classifications where pay did not match skills and value.

The union originally had sought a study to address disparities in salaries between male and female employees. But it eventually agreed to study job classes, regardless of the sex of workers.

The study showed that most pay inequity was among women workers, especially in jobs usually done by women. It also found that, in addition to security guards, some classifications in such male-dominated professions as building inspector and maintenance worker were underpaid.

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