Doing Comparable Worth

Doing Comparable Worth: Gender, Class, and Pay Equity

Copyright Date: 1989
Published by: Temple University Press
Pages: 272
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  • Book Info
    Doing Comparable Worth
    Book Description:

    Doing Comparable Worthis the first empirical study of the actual process of attempting to translate into reality the idea of equal pay for work of equal value. This political ethnography documents a large project undertaken by the state of Oregon to evaluate 35,000 jobs of state employees, identify gender-based pay inequities, and remedy these inequities. The book details both the technical and political processes, showing how the technical was always political, how management manipulated and unions resisted wage redistribution, and how initial defeat was turned into partial victory for pay equity by labor union women and women's movement activists.

    As a member of the legislative task force that was responsible for implementing the legislation requiring a pay equity study in Oregon, Joan Acker gives an insider's view of how job evaluation, job classification, and the formulation of an equity plan were carried out. She reveals many of the political and technical problems in doing comparable worth that are not evident to outsiders. She also places comparable worth within a feminist theoretical perspective.

    In the seriesWomen in the Political Economy, edited by Ronnie J. Steinberg.

    eISBN: 978-1-4399-0572-2
    Subjects: Political Science, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-2)
  3. CHAPTER ONE Introduction
    (pp. 3-28)

    This is a study of a large comparable worth project and of how gender and class dynamics influenced its outcome. I have a double intent: first, to understand comparable worth as a practical effort, constrained by conflicting gender and class interests, and second, to explore theoretically the connections between gender and class, using the comparable worth project as a ground for making visible some of these connections.

    Activists in the women’s movement ask the practical question, What are the best strategies for increasing economic equality between women and men? Comparable worth, or equal pay for work of equal value, is,...

  4. CHAPTER TWO Competing Interests, Multiple Goals
    (pp. 29-60)

    Class and gender interests, whether in conflict or coalition, helped to shape Oregon’s comparable worth project from its inception in 1983. The comparable worth legislation was sponsored by the leading feminist state senator, in close cooperation with women staff of the state’s largest labor union, the Oregon Public Employees Union. Within that union there was some gender-based disagreement, as the male leadership was ambivalent about strong comparable worth wording in the bill. The class interests of the Republican state executive were reflected in their initial opposition to the bill. However, feminist leaders in the legislature organized wide support and, recognizing...

  5. CHAPTER THREE Reproducing Hierarchy—or Job Evaluation in Oregon
    (pp. 61-104)

    With the hiring of Hay Associates the State of Oregon purchased a complete job evaluation system based on “traditional organizational designs.” According to one member of the Hay team, “The Guide Charts were developed over time by working with a number of different managers in different organizations. The Guide Charts represent a composite of the value systems of managers from various organizations. They are reflective of traditional organizational designs” (Task Force minutes, April 25, 1984:8). Traditional organizational designs emerged with the development of the large corporation and the search for better ways, more scientific ways, to manage production, as any...

  6. CHAPTER FOUR True Comparable Worth: The Technical as Political
    (pp. 105-150)

    The principles of true comparable worth, a complete wage system based on evaluated points, were the taken-for-granted assumptions of the project as the Task Force, the consultants, and the Personnel Division went about developing and formulating a comparable worth plan for the state of Oregon. The development of the plan began with the first Task Force meeting, its form prefigured in the Personnel Division’s Request for Proposal that preceded the Task Force appointments. Thus, job evaluation and the development of true comparable worth were simultaneous and interlocking processes. It is only in the telling that they can be separated.


  7. CHAPTER FIVE From True Comparable Worth to Poverty Relief
    (pp. 151-198)

    Traditional class politics—management versus labor—and bureaucratic wrangles, evident in early Task Force meetings and still troubling as the implementation plan was developed, emerged even more forcefully as the plan went to the 1985 legislature. The outcome was the destruction of “true” comparable worth. However, women active in the Oregon Public Employees Union and the legislature would not let comparable worth die. After a substitute plan failed, two more years of work led to a more politically pragmatic approach and a partial success. A shift from a focus on technical questions to a focus on political organizing marks the...

  8. CHAPTER SIX Doing Comparable Worth: Theorizing Gender and Class
    (pp. 199-228)

    Why is gender inequality so persistent and how is it continually reconstituted in new forms in the process of broad social and economic change? I began this study with that question in mind because, in spite of a flood of scholarship, our answers are still unsatisfactory. I was convinced that at least a small part of the answer depends on a better understanding of the connections between gender and class, for women’s situations are not just the product of strongly held gendered beliefs and long-established habits of living, but are rooted in the economic realities of survival. I also believed...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 229-236)
  10. Bibliography
    (pp. 237-246)
  11. Index
    (pp. 247-254)