Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Pay Equity Works for Everyone

Arvonne Fraser

By Arvonne Fraser and Aviva Breen

Should Esther, the city clerk in Lake Wobegon, be paid $250 a month less than Joe who shovels the sidewalk and sweeps the floor in city hall? That was the kind of hypothetical question posed when the Minnesota Legislature passed the Local Government Pay Equity Act in 1984. Never mind that the fictional Esther was a widow, taking care of an aged mother, while Joe, the maintenance man, was single and a cousin of the mayor. That was just life. Everybody in town was glad Esther had a job. In those days only the town banker and city council members knew who got paid what.

Twenty-six years later, thanks to the pay equity bill, picture Jolene, now the town's clerk who makes just a bit more than her husband, Brian, who plows the town's streets in winter as a maintenance man. Together they support their three children, pay their property taxes, and are saving to help their kids through college. They are pleased that Aunt Esther's social security is better than it would have been because under the law her pay was adjusted.

Now, there are efforts to repeal this pay equity law. In December, the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce issued a report saying the legislation is too costly and no longer necessary. Some state legislators agreed and have introduced proposals for repeal. Apparently they agree that a penny saved is a penny earned, but where's their sense of proportion when the state's deficit is in the billions of dollars?

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