Equal Pay for Men and Women
May 18, 1950 — Subcommittee on Education and Labor, US House of Representatives, Washington DC
I am Mary Anderson, Legislative Representative of the National Consumers’ League, and I have been asked to testify in behalf of the following national organizations:
National Board of the Young Women’s Christian Associations
League of Women Voters of the United States
National Consumers’ League
National Council of Jewish Women
National Women’s Trade Union League
These organizations have given their official endorsement to the statement I am about to make.
We take the position that discrimination against women in rates of pay should be prohibited by law, and we, therefore, support H.R. 1584, which clearly states that “the existence in industry of wage differentials based on sex is an inequity in compensation standards which constitutes an unfair wage practice….”
Equal pay for equal work for women is not a new issue. As long ago as 1907 the National Women’s Trade Union League was concerned about this unfair practice and tried to arouse public opinion on it. Later, in 1915, the Committee on Industrial Relations created by Congress recommended that both public opinion and legislation recognize “the principle that women should receive the same compensation as men for the same service.” The equal pay principle was enunciated by the War Labor Board of the first World War and, although some progress was made at that time, the roots of this bad practice remained and wage differentials continued to flourish in many places. During NRA days, further progress was made when the code authorities prevented the adoption of sex differentials in codes covering 71 industries. And still later, in World War II, the War Labor Board issued its General Order No. 16, which directed adoption and application of the principle that women should be paid the same wage rates as men for comparable work.
At the present time, equal pay clauses are written into many union contracts, but there are still large areas where the principle is not applied. In the first place, only 3 million women are organized (and therefore covered by union contracts), out of about 18 million women now in the labor force; and, in the second place, even where there are union agreements, these are not self-enforcing. For instance, some recent union agreements contain provisions setting forth adherence to the equal pay principle, but the wage scales, which are part of the agreements, specify one hourly rate of pay for men and a lower rate of pay for women. We submit that the ancient practice of having wage scales labeled “male rate” and “female rate” should be outlawed.
Equal pay for women is a matter of simple justice. The number of women in the labor force is increasing constantly because women have to work to support themselves and/or contribute to family support. There should be one rate for the job, whether performed by a man or a woman. This is the only way of insuring that a worker gets what he or she is entitled to for the job done. Furthermore, a wage rate for the job keeps women from undercutting men and is therefore advantageous to the men also.
And for the reasons above stated, we urge your Committee to give a favorable report on Equal Pay for Men and Women.
Source: Hearings before the Special Subcommittee of the Committee on Education and Labor in Support of H.R. 1584, May 17, 18, 19. (Washington DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1950), pp. 81-82.