Monday, August 15, 2005

The Radical Within Roberts Stirs

See? If it weren't for the release of memos, we'd have never known about this:
On the issue of gender equality on worker wages, Roberts was critical of three Republican congresswomen who supported the concept.

Roberts referred to a 1983 case in which the Washington state supreme court found the state guilty of discrimination for paying women less than men for jobs of "comparable worth."

Roberts said in a February 3, 1984, memo that the ruling smacked of judicial activism. "This is a total reorientation of the law of gender discrimination," he concluded, since "it mandates nothing less than central planning of the economy by judges. Under the theory judges, not the marketplace, decide how much a particular job is worth."

Later that month, Roberts again addressed the issue, noting three GOP lawmakers applauded the ruling. One was then-Rep. Olympia Snowe, now the senior U.S. senator from Maine. The congresswomen complained women at the time earned only 60 cents for every dollar earned by men.

"I honestly find it troubling that three Republican representatives are so quick to embrace such a radical redistribute concept. Their slogan may as well be 'From each according to his ability, to each according to her gender,'" said Roberts.

Roberts also opposed the Court's ruling in Wallace v. Jaffree. There, the Court ruled that an Alabama law which nominally only affirmed the right of students to pray silently during a moment of silence, but whose legislative history made it clear it was designed as an end-run around prior School Prayer cases like Engel v. Vitale, was unconstitutional under the 1st amendment. Though this case is nearer and dearer to my heart, I recognize it is far more controversial. Roberts' position on gender equality, by contrast, seems absolutely fringe. The "market" should decide what a woman's job is worth? If there was ever a clear cut example of a market failure, it seems like this was it (60 cents versus a dollar--come on). And Roberts' comparison of judicial efforts to remedy rather blatant sex discrimination in the work place to "central planning" is just absurd. This is precisely the type of ideological blindness to clear facts that I hoped Roberts would avoid.

My support is slipping.


Anonymous said...

Uh, just to correct a factual error, the jobs in question were not 60c:$1, just jobs in general. After all, if you could run your whole business for 60% of the cost AND have a bunch of nice backsides to stare at, wouldn't you start hiring just women?
Because women in general are less likely to even WANT management or high-level positions (a 1990 poll showed the split to be 18% of working women and 48% of working men wanting to someday be CEOs), they seem to make less on average. Also, today just as the 1980s, women are less likely to take mathematics, engineering, or scientific majors, again bringing down the average wage.

However, since the law is equal pay for equal work - mandating equal average pay would drive women out of businesses as the cost of female labor would end up being near double the cost of equally qualified men.

If I remember correctly (it was a Judge Tanner, right?), the court ruled on only the Judge's interpretation of each position's value, some of which disagreed significantly with the studies straight out of Seattle on the exact same group of positions. That is judicial activism, isn't it?

Anyway, the last I heard, women were only getting 75c for every dollar men made. But I'm still getting paid the exact same as my male coworkers.

Anonymous said...

I read a bit about that today in either Newsweek or USA Today (can't remember which). The article I read seemed to point that Roberts' emphasis was focused on questioning the validity of that 60 cents to a dollar statistic. He noted that women (esp. at that time) had less seniority in the work force and had to take more time off, both of which could skew numbers. I was under the impression he was just being skeptical about facts, which isn't necessarily such a *terrible* thing.

(Of course, whether or not those concerns actually negated the statistic is a different story. He still had the right to ask, at least.)

Anonymous said...

The stats on relative gender pay are at best heavily taken out of context, and at work utterly unreliable. No one mentioned it, but pregnancy is a huge factor in lower female pay - they can't work as consistently for as long if they want to have children and take time off work to raise them. There's also the issue of averaging the pay rates for every profession, no matter how disparate, and saying it's a problem that requires a preemptive federal solution instead of targeted enforcement for instances where pay really is lower because of gender. I'd never even heard the 60 cent figure - per blueeyes, it was always 75 cents, which I still don't find reliable on its own. We could use more skeptics of lawmaking by statistics on the bench.