Wage Discrimination

58th General Assembly
November 1985
Los Angeles, California

Reform Judaism has a profound commitment to the principle of equality of opportunity for all persons. The UAHC has sought to apply this principle within the Reform community and also in its vigorous support of the Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.

Since World War II, women's average wages have been 40 percent less than men's. Despite the Equal Pay Act of 1963, that differential continues. To establish wage discrimination under the Equal Pay Act, a claimant must show that she works in essentially the same job as a higher paid man. The Act has had little impact because the work force is highly segregated along sex lines, with 80 percent of full-time working women employed in only twenty traditionally female job categories, sometimes referred to as "pink collar" jobs. Not surprisingly, the overwhelming majority of employees in those categories are women. Indeed, as the National Academy of Sciences recently found, the higher the percentage of women in an occupation, the less that occupation pays.

This kind of wage discrimination is less blatant than the provision of separate pay rates for the same work but results in equally costly damage to our society. Many of the women working in traditionally female jobs are single heads of households and the damage to them is cumulative. Wage discrimination deprives them of adequate medical care and their children of adequate day care, nutrition, and education. Because of such wage discrimination, they save less for retirement and receive lower pension and social security benefits, making it more likely that they will need public assistance in their declining years. Thus wage discrimination perpetuates the cycle of poverty and contributes directly to its feminization.

Women in predominantly female jobs that, even according to any employers' own specific guidelines, are similar in skill, effort, and responsibility to those of men in traditional male jobs should be compensated with fairness and equity in those jobs. For example, the wages of city 911 operators who dispatch emergency vehicles for the Police Department should equal the wages of fire dispatchers who perform a similar job for the Fire Department. Yet the pay disparity between the two groups in one major city ranges from $4,000 to $8,000 a year in favor of the fire dispatchers who are overwhelmingly white males, while the police dispatchers are mostly black and/or female.

The evaluation of different jobs within a workplace for the purpose of determining their relative levels of skill, effort, and responsibility is a standard business procedure. Indeed, the federal government, the nation's largest employer, applies such a uniform job evaluation and classification system. Standards such as skill, education, effort, degree of responsibility, and working conditions are utilized by seventeen states and over one hundred municipalities in evaluating their jobs on a system-wide basis.

Despite protracted law suits and the correction of wage discrimination by some municipalities, pervasive wage inequalities continue. Every working person and the families of workers and society as a whole suffer from discriminatory unequal pay practices that allow employers to hire women and minorities at lower wages than they would pay white males.

Therefore, be it resolved that the Union of American Hebrew Congregations:

  1. Calls upon the United States Department of Justice to enter into suits on the side of those in predominantly women's jobs who are the victims of wage discrimination in order to obtain for them pay equal to that provided those in other jobs that require similar skills, education, effort, and responsibility.
  2. Supports legislation calling for job evaluation studies and appropriate remedial actions on the federal, state, and municipal levels.
  3. Sets an example for the larger society by calling on our own national Reform organizations, as well as local synagogues and other Jewish agencies, to examine our compensation practices and implement recommendations that will insure equal pay for comparable work.
  4. Supports other organizations in their efforts to achieve pay equity.