Monday, April 14, 2014

Speed-Blogging Monday 4/14/14: On Scott Walker, Ayaan Hirsi Ali and The Silence About Earnings


This is the Tax Day in the US and time for me to face how much money I lose by writing so much for nothing.  On the other hand, Uncle Sam won't get that money to pass it on to corporations in the way those subsides often work.  But you could send me money if you have any under the sofa cushions/pillows (or wait until my May fund drive).  (Why do I find begging so hard?)

First, on one of the nine Nazg├╗ls, the governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker:

Amid reports that Wisconsin ranks 25th in the country in paying women as equally as men, Gov. Scott Walker is taking flak for repealing a state law that allowed workers to seek punitive damages for pay inequality and other discriminatory workplace practices.
The criticism was leveled at Walker on Equal Pay Day, April 8, the symbolic day when women’s earnings finally catch up to men’s earnings from the previous year.
Wisconsin passed an equal pay law under Democrats in 2009, allowing plaintiffs to sue in state court as well as federal court. Supporters argued the federal Equal Pay Act did not provide adequate financial compensation to aggrieved workers.
But Walker and the Republican-controlled Legislature in 2012 repealed the state equal pay law, leaving Wisconsin as one of only five states in the nation without one.

There's something about governor Walker which rubs my scales the wrong way.  If you think I'm just typically female in being overly emotional, have a look at the stuff he has managed to do in the past in that poor state.

Second, Brandeis University first offered Ayaan Hirsi Ali an honorary doctorate and then withdrew the offer.  You can guess the kinds of things this combination of events lends itself to, including accusations of liberal fascism and the culture of "shut-up"   and of course the Ross-Douthat interpretation of what's going on at Brandeis:

According to Douthat, Brandeis is trying to silence Ali, but to get to that point he has to conflate the Brandeis case with the Brendan Eich case at the Mozilla Foundation.  Because Ali was invited to come and speak at Brandeis, so she wasn't really silenced.  On the other hand, it's true that people who get their honorary doctorates first dangled in front of their faces and then snatched away publicly probably won't want to come and speak at the offending university.

I don't have anything interesting to say about the underlying dilemmas which could be discussed for the next hundred years.   Obviously, of course,  universities should study the backgrounds of people they are going to reward with honorary doctorates, given that honorary doctorates are about rewarding.

Third, why is it the customary rule in the US that salaries are secret?  Here's one answer to the question:  because firms require that secrecy.  Michelle Chen notes that the Paycheck Fairness Act (which Republicans suffocated at birth) would have made some salary information more visible:

The Paycheck Fairness Act would have shielded workers from retaliation if they discuss their salaries with coworkers. Employers would have had to “prove that pay disparities exist for legitimate, job-related reasons,” according to the National Partnership for Women & Families. In addition, the bill would have closed disparities in the legal remedies available for violations of the Equal Pay Act, so workers could claim the same kinds of damages provided under other wage discrimination laws. And overall, workers would have had an easier time seeking compensation in federal court, rather than the bureaucracy of the National Labor Relations Board, which tends to yield weaker penalties.
The bill would also have directed the Labor Department and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to proactively gather data and investigate wage discrimination on a broader scale.

If you don't know what the guy in the next cubicle makes, you might not know that you are not being paid fairly (or that he isn't paid fairly).  So all this links to the ease with which a firm could be sued for race and/or gender discrimination, which is the reason why Republicans had to kill the act.