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The Paycheck Fairness Act, recently torpedoed in the Senate, addressed some glaring problems that have generated less discussion than they should. This useful post ("Why Do Bosses Want Their Employees' Salaries to be Secret?") by Michelle Chen on The Nation  explains the need for protections for workers who discuss their salaries:

Lily Ledbetter had been a loyal employee of Goodyear Tires for nearly two decades before she discovered she had been underpaid for years. What angered her most wasn’t the lost pay but the betrayal of her economic dignity.

“When I was hired they let me know that if I discussed my pay, I wouldn’t have a job. So I had no way to know,” she said in a 2012 interview on One Thing New. When the 60-year-old Alabama mother realized (thanks to an anonymous tip) that she had been paid less as a plant supervisor than male coworkers, she recalled, “I felt devastated. Humiliated…. It just really made me sort of sick that all this time I had been getting awards and being told I was doing a great job, and no one had ever said I wasn’t making what I should be. I had no idea how much less.”

...

The struggle for fair pay isn’t captured in wage statistics; it’s part of a struggle against the asymmetry of knowledge that divides management and labor—and fundamentally, a struggle for a democratic workplace.

Well-said, and remarkable that so many Americans accept this asymmetry so unquestioningly.

The National Women's Law Center has a handy PDF about what the Paycheck Fairness Act would actually do.

Get a signed print of this cartoon from the artist. You can also follow Jen on Twitter and Facebook.

Originally posted to Comics on Tue Apr 22, 2014 at 06:50 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Perfect punchline (13+ / 0-)

    Great as always, Jen.

    I ain't often right, but I've never been wrong. Seldom turns out the way it does in this song.

    by mungley on Tue Apr 22, 2014 at 07:03:32 AM PDT

    •  hello (3+ / 0-)

      Corp America owns the supreme court.

      Americans wanted Reagan economics now they have it. cause and effect thing

      FDR understood the ill side effects of unchecked capitalism. no American has since

      Ike understood the ill side effects of unchecked military, no American has since

      America's problems are systemic yet they    continue to blame individuals

      Americans continue to put the  same corp  and religion controlled politicians into office term after term and expect change. insanity defined.

    •  For the Full Story (0+ / 0-)

      read Lilly Ledbetter's book, "Grace and Grit."  SCOTUS ruled against her because she didn't complain about the unequal pay within 180 days of its happening, even though she didn't KNOW it was happening for almost 20 yrs. IOW, she should've complained about it when she didn't know about it.  HUH? Kafka, anyone?

  •  If you work in the public sector, OTOH (9+ / 0-)

    it's usually the case that everyone's pay grade is publicly posted, even though in general, people would rather pull down their pants than have you know what they earn. I've actually known public employees who think there is something evil about looking up who is making what, and who think they are getting a big raise with some promotion or other when all they have to do is check out the numbers online to see that their net gain is not going to be very much.  It's a stupidly ingrained American attitude.

  •  Great cartoon (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Medde

    But, as we've said before, free speech doesn't mean you get to keep your job.  Not suffering repercussions for speech would be nice in this case, but that's not the same thing as free speech.  Ask the former head of Mozilla (good riddance by the way).

    "Harass us, because we really do pay attention. Look at who's on the ballot, and vote for the candidate you agree with the most. The next time, you get better choices." - Barney Frank

    by anonevent on Tue Apr 22, 2014 at 07:31:44 AM PDT

    •  I'm not sure what this (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Kevskos, Wee Mama, WanderingWendy

      has to do with "free speech".

      Government salaries are public knowledge, and there is no bar to discussing them. What we have here is an unfair contract term that is used solely to depress wages.

      I hope that the quality of debate will improve,
      but I fear we will remain Democrats.

      Who is twigg?

      by twigg on Tue Apr 22, 2014 at 07:34:21 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  The last panel mentions free speech (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        twigg

        That's why I mentioned it.

        "Harass us, because we really do pay attention. Look at who's on the ballot, and vote for the candidate you agree with the most. The next time, you get better choices." - Barney Frank

        by anonevent on Tue Apr 22, 2014 at 07:42:55 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Unfortunately, (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Medde, GreenMother, JeffW

      you are right about that.  It's a bit like Rush Limbaugh's free speech:  he can say any idiot thing he likes (that's free speech), but he suffers economic consequences (yeah, boycott of his advertisers!).  

      I'd like to know more about what happened to this bill in the senate?  Who torpedoed it?

      It's the Supreme Court, stupid!

      by Radiowalla on Tue Apr 22, 2014 at 07:56:51 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I never understood the need for secrecy either. (7+ / 0-)

    It's not just an American attitude, it seems to be a "western" attitude.

    Personally, I have zero vested interest in hiding my salary, and I never have. I can only think that many folk are embarrassed by not earning much, and many employers don't want salary discussions because they lead to things like Trade Unions.

    Let's face it, if we were all aware that we were equally pissed about pay, then maybe we would do something about it.

    I hope that the quality of debate will improve,
    but I fear we will remain Democrats.

    Who is twigg?

    by twigg on Tue Apr 22, 2014 at 07:32:09 AM PDT

    •  Two Factors Apply (6+ / 0-)

      For management, secrecy enhances control. For the workers, lack of secrecy can lead to jealousy, among other things.

      "A famous person once said, 'You can fool some of the people some of the time, but you can't fool all of the people all of the time.' But as I once said, "If you don't teach them to read, you can fool them whenever you like." – Max Headroom

      by midnight lurker on Tue Apr 22, 2014 at 07:45:17 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Jealousy persists regardless in the hearts of (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        JeffW, twigg, northsylvania

        those prone to it.

        If they aren't jealous of pay, they'd be jealous of awards, or projects, or something.

        "It were a thousand times better for the land if all Witches, but especially the blessing Witch, might suffer death." qtd by Ehrenreich & English. For Her Own Good, Two Centuries of Expert's Advice to Women pp 40

        by GreenMother on Tue Apr 22, 2014 at 09:29:27 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  That's True (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          GreenMother, twigg

          "Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?"

          But I still maintain that my actual pay isn't anybody else's business, unless I choose to share it with them (and I won't.) I have seen numerous instances where dissent and dissatisfaction have arisen when discussions turn to "How come so-and-so makes this-or-that?"

          Knowing pay ranges for certain jobs is a good thing, I think. But knowing someone else's individual pay is not (especially if the information is second-hand.) I have personally refused to enter those sorts of discussions. If someone asked me "How come, etc,?" My immediate reply has always been, "How do you know?"

          "A famous person once said, 'You can fool some of the people some of the time, but you can't fool all of the people all of the time.' But as I once said, "If you don't teach them to read, you can fool them whenever you like." – Max Headroom

          by midnight lurker on Tue Apr 22, 2014 at 10:17:29 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  understood, but isn't the freedom to discuss nice? (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            twigg, northsylvania

            "It were a thousand times better for the land if all Witches, but especially the blessing Witch, might suffer death." qtd by Ehrenreich & English. For Her Own Good, Two Centuries of Expert's Advice to Women pp 40

            by GreenMother on Tue Apr 22, 2014 at 12:52:04 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Okay (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              midnight lurker

              How about the company posting the salary/pay scale for each category without names attached?  Maybe you feel even this violates your privacy, but I think Lilly had the right to know whether or not she was being paid fairly, don't you?  Knowing how underpaid women are in this country, I believe that transparency is the only way to expose and solve this problem.  It shouldn't be necessary, but, unfortunately, it is.

              •  Personally, I'm Fine with That (0+ / 0-)

                I think it's the best way to go. But there are too many complicating factors when one person knows exactly what another is making without the second person having revealed it intentionally. Or even worse, when somehow a third party found out and revealed it to the first. I have known people that try to figure out ways to do that out of some unknown personality maladjustment.

                "A famous person once said, 'You can fool some of the people some of the time, but you can't fool all of the people all of the time.' But as I once said, "If you don't teach them to read, you can fool them whenever you like." – Max Headroom

                by midnight lurker on Wed Apr 23, 2014 at 06:15:01 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

          •  Interesting. (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            raspberryberet, drklassen

            When grades come out during a class, the smart ones learn what the prof is looking for and go and do likewise. Sometimes their own beliefs are strong enough that they don't, and are willing to take the hit grade-wise. Why is working for a boss or a corporation any different?
            Salaries are a form of external validation: how well you fit in with a corporation and how well you work for your immediate boss (or whoever does your evaluations). In a perfect world, where something like health care wouldn't tie you to a specific employment circumstance, you could find your own niche, and be paid accordingly. The cult of secrecy about salaries is only another form of manipulation.

            "The 'Middle' is a crowded place - that is where the effective power is - the extreme right and left might annoy governments, but the middle terrifies them." Johnny Linehan

            by northsylvania on Tue Apr 22, 2014 at 02:46:29 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  If they had decent management (4+ / 0-)

        then they wouldn't have to worry about the jealousy aspect.  And the sour grapes, jealous person would be the one to be shown the door.  

        I know that when I first started out in the work force (oh so many years ago,) it was common practice in the work place to NEVER discuss pay.  And since I was young, (and didn't make much) I was fine with that.  When I joined the Navy, you knew what EVERYONE made, based on rank and time in service.  That was a pretty big shock to this young woman.

        Now, I'm an accountant, so I know what everyone makes.  And we have that one whiner.  Ugh!  And for that reason, management has made it against the rules to discuss pay. Because apparently it is easier to silence all than just the one.  Weak!

      •  Secrecy (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        raspberryberet, drklassen

        also allows management to make arbitrary decisions.  There are some workplaces this can't happen, because there's a pay scale based on job classification.  But where I work, whenever a new position is created, the boss gets to decide what it's worth.  He's an okay guy, but I don't have 100% confidence in his judgment.

  •  A bad custom of North American culture (9+ / 0-)

    is the reluctance to discuss wages and salary. Sure, maybe it could be gauche to bring it up at the bar with your friends who work in completely different places and fields. But there should be transparency in the work place. I mean, that's one reason why Lily Ledbetter didn't know for years just how badly they were screwing her over.

    And yes, of course, as this comic illustrates, in some workplaces people fear punishment for discussing their salaries. But it seems to be taboo, too, even if there is no such fear. And that needs to end.

    Great comic!

    "As the madmen play on words, and make us all dance to their song / to the tune of starving millions, to make a better kind of gun..." -- Iron Maiden

    by Lost Left Coaster on Tue Apr 22, 2014 at 07:44:29 AM PDT

  •  I have (8+ / 0-)

    only worked for one company that did not have a rule about discussing pay with other employees.  They even encouraged us to, of course they paid everybody fair and equal wages.  It was a travel agency and every agent with the same title was paid the same.  Raises were for mainly for seniority and very small ones for performance.  It was a corporate and group travel company so teamwork is what made the place run so well.

    Shortly before I left they got bought out by some real estate types and discussing salary became verbotten.  The drop in moral and the expensive office they moved us into quickly drove the company out of business.

    "In short, I was a racketeer for Capitalism" Marine Corp Brigadier General Smedley D. Butler

    by Kevskos on Tue Apr 22, 2014 at 07:46:32 AM PDT

  •  We've got to change the Senate (4+ / 0-)

    before this will pass.  We can start here.

    Augusta – This morning, the U.S. Senate failed to invoke cloture on the Paycheck Fairness Act.  Susan Collins voted with her Republican colleagues to block the bill from moving forward.

    “Three times now, Susan Collins has joined with her Republican colleagues to block legislation that would have increased transparency and offered protection to victims of wage discrimination,” said Bellows.

    “Women aren’t earning less than men for doing the same job – they’re being paid less than men for doing the same job. This morning, Republican Susan Collins had the opportunity to move a bill forward that would help address the gender pay gap. Instead, she voted to stand with her Republican colleagues and block women in Maine and around the country from receiving equal pay for equal work.”

    start here
  •  Amend the NLRA (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    slakn1, drklassen

    To either raise the fines and penalties for employers who prohibit or retaliate against workers who discuss/compare their wages/benefits, since it is already your right to do so as long as you only do it during non-work time (or in the break room)

    Or better yet:

    Full compensation transparency at every employer nationwide.

     The information asymmetry between employers and employees is part of why wages have stagnated. If you knew what everyone else was being paid, there would be constant upward pressure on wages from employees since everyone would want to be getting the top pay for their position.

  •  Pay equality (0+ / 0-)

    Money is the root of all evil and most of the money belongs to the EVIL among us. Where's the Gods when we need them??????????????????????

  •  I don't wanna know my co-worker's salary. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    raspberryberet

    Note that I said "co-worker's", with an apostrophe, not "co-workers".  That's very important.  Understanding how your salary compares to other salaries in your department is something I think is very fair and should be allowed, if not required.  But I don't know want to know what Bob or Sally make each month.

    Similarly, it's none of my co-workers' damn business what my salary is.  It is, however, their business that there is a white male aged 45-50 with 10-15 years of service making between $75K and $80K.  That's how the information should be presented.  That would allow people to see how they stand without invading people's privacy and potentially creating ill will.

    If Bob makes more than Jim, despite being in similar jobs for similar periods of time, there could be reasons for that.  Maybe Bob had another offer and the company decided they really needed to keep him.  Maybe Jim just isn't as good and hasn't received as many merit increases.  Individual-to-individual comparisons are just a bad idea.  They invite bad morale, jealousy, and bitterness.

    But I do believe that workers have the right to know where they fit on the salary spectrum.  Just not what one specific person makes.

    ------RM

    •  This works great in big, or homogeneous, offices (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      drklassen

      Unfortunately in a small office like mine, the one male who isn't the boss would be instantly obvious to the rest of us.  Same with the one Asian woman and the one white woman over 40.  Years-of-service would be a dead giveaway for every single one of us, because there hasn't been much turnover.  That said, we are not good enough friends to discuss our salaries.

      I agree that there needs to be more transparency, but I don't know how we get there while still keeping the actual data anonymous.

      "Education is the key to unlock the golden door of freedom." -- G.W.Carver

      by northbronx on Tue Apr 22, 2014 at 10:15:25 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Such secrecy is already illegal in many cases. (0+ / 0-)

    The NLRB has held that rules which prohibit employees from discussing wages and working conditions among themselves has or can have the effect of interfering with their ability to organize. A lot of folks don't know that the National Labor Relations Act applies to almost all businesses, not just where there is a union.

    •  Link (0+ / 0-)

      Can you post a link because I didn't think the NLRB's "powers" was so all-encompassing.

      •  Here's a paragraph from a recent ALJ decision (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        sendtheasteroid

        which gives you several citations. Note in particular the Lafayette Park Hotel case, where the DC Circuit enforced the Board's decision:

        Thus, the Board has long held that an employer cannot lawfully prohibit employees from discussing matters such as their pay raises, rates of pay, and perceived inequities. Automatic Screw Products, Inc., 306 NLRB 1072 (1992); Brunswick Food & Drug, 284
        NLRB 663 (1987). Accordingly, when an employer forbids employees from discussing their wages among themselves without establishing a substantial and legitimate business justification for its policy, the employer violates the Act. Waco, Inc., 273 NLRB 746, 748
        (1984). Over the years, the Board has dealt with an abundance of cases involving employers’ confidentiality rules and the issue of employees’ Section 7 rights. In its recent decision in Flex Frac Logistics, 358 NLRB No. 127 (2012), the Board reiterated that an employer violates the Act when it maintains a work rule that reasonably tends to chill employees in the exercise of their Section 7 rights. Citing its prior decisions in Lutheran Heritage Village-Livonia, 343 NLRB 646, 646 (2004), and Lafayette Park Hotel, 326 NLRB 824, 825 (1998), enfd. 203 F.3d 52 (D.C. Cir. 1999), the Board went on to explain that nondisclosure rules with overly broad language interfere with employees’ Section 7 rights when employees would reasonably believe that they are prohibited from discussing wages or other terms and conditions of employment.
  •  You know the old saying, why buy the cow if the (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JeffW, sendtheasteroid, drklassen

    milk is for free.

    Lily Ledbetter's story feels an awful lot like that.

    I can almost here the conversation--Never ever pay retail prices, when you can hire a woman. She will work twice as hard to prove she is just as qualified at a fraction of the price for her male counterparts.

    And the best part is, she will never know. She will just feel grateful so long as no one tells her she is getting the proverbial shaft.

    "It were a thousand times better for the land if all Witches, but especially the blessing Witch, might suffer death." qtd by Ehrenreich & English. For Her Own Good, Two Centuries of Expert's Advice to Women pp 40

    by GreenMother on Tue Apr 22, 2014 at 09:27:30 AM PDT

  •  This was the final straw (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    slakn1, drklassen

    at the worst job I ever had.  I was told I had to take on the job of a woman who was leaving as well as my own work (no increase in salary offered, of course.)  I asked her what she made, so I could tailor my request for an increase accordingly.  Turned out she made a lot less than I did and she was pissed.  She stormed into the boss's office; then I was called on the carpet and chewed out for an hour (all my many failings as an employee.)  That was Friday afternoon.  Monday morning I quit.

    Did I mention she was the only minority in the department?  They were terrified.

  •  I've always hated this rule (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    drklassen

    Pay should always be appropriate to the quality of work and seniority. There's really no way around that.

    I've never bought the whole "well you cant discuss it because some people might be upset".

    If a company pays a fair wage to all of it's employees, there is no reason to hide it. If a person feels they deserve more when the numbers clearly show they don't, they either need to discuss it with the upper levels or deal with it.

    It's really not that much different then someone getting a promotion instead of someone else. by the rules logic people shouldn't know what job title each other have within a company.

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