When Brad Peck, blogger for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, revealed his true feelings about the wage gap, he also exposed the organization’s woman problem. Peck, in writing about the gender wage gap last week, implied the gap is the result of individual choice, not discrimination. Others have made the same uninformed claim and if Peck had stopped there he may not have attracted such an outcry. But he went on to quote Donald J. Boudreaux from Café Hayek who wrote, “obsession with income equality also reflects a Scrooge-like fetish for money.”
Peck would be wise to understand his organization’s base. The U.S. Chamber says it represents “the interests of more than 3 million businesses of all sizes, sectors, and regions,” and that “more than 96% of U.S. Chamber members are small businesses with 100 employees or fewer.” The organization professes dedication to one mission: “strengthening the competitiveness of the U.S. economy to increase opportunity and prosperity for all Americans.” A large percent of that base is women. Earlier this year women surpassed men on the national payroll. And as far as small businesses are concerned, the SBA reports more than 40 percent of all businesses are women-owned, a number that’s been rapidly increasing each year. If the goal is truly to strengthen our economy, than the chamber ought to get on board with the issues working women face – issues like paid sick days, maternity leave, work life policies, affordable childcare, institutional sexism and, of course, fair pay. Women demanding equal pay for equal work isn’t about a money fetish. It’s about doing what’s good for women, good for families, good for business and good for the economy.
When Chamber COO David Chavern, responded to Peck’s missive with his own post the following day, “A Wrong and Wrong-Headed Look at the Wage Gap,” the words felt cheap. Actions speak volumes and the Chamber’s actions, when it comes to working women, are overwhelmingly unimpressive.
A search for “maternity” on the Chamber’s website turned up not a single document addressing maternity leave. There was nothing on affordable childcare either. A search for paid sick leave, a critical issue for not just women but most employees, turned up the Chamber’s Labor Policy Priorities for 2010 which includes:
- Oppose efforts to expand the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) by covering smaller businesses and making leave paid, and
- Oppose efforts to mandate paid sick leave.
There is information on the website about the Paycheck Fairness Act – a letter in opposition. The Chamber claims that although it, “strongly supports equal employment opportunity” this bill would “expand remedies under the Equal Pay Act (EPA) to include unlimited punitive and compensatory damages, significantly erode employer defenses for legitimate pay disparities, and impose invalid tools for enforcement by the Labor Department.”
And then there is the Chamber’s leadership. There are no women on its Board of Directors, just one woman among the seven regional vice chairmen, just one women out of 5 on the senior council, and more than three quarters of the senior management team are men. Is it any wonder the Chamber doesn’t understand more than half of its constituents?