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Jewish World Review Jan. 27, 2000 /20 Shevat, 5760

Linda Chavez

Linda Chavez
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Good sportswomynship -- WHY SHOULDN'T WOMEN soccer players earn as much as their male counterparts, especially when the U.S. women's team are world champions and the men finished in last place? President Clinton is hoping to turn that question into the battle cry for his new fight for pay equity legislation in Congress.

On Monday, President Clinton enlisted World Cup women's soccer champion mid-fielder Michelle Akers in his effort to pass a $27 million federal Equal Pay Initiative. Akers' teammates on the championship U.S. women's soccer team are currently embroiled in a bitter wage dispute with the U.S. Soccer Federation, which has proposed paying the women champions less than their male counterparts currently earn.

President Clinton wants to convince the public that women's earnings should equal men's -- they don't now, falling short about 25 cents on the dollar to men's wages on average. And what better example to show how unfair the system is than to trot out Akers, whose pluck and skill helped make her team world champions but couldn't guarantee her equal pay?

Unfair it may be, but then, fairness has almost nothing to do with what determines wages -- which is why President Clinton's campaign is likely to fail. For years now, feminists and their Democrat allies in Congress have proposed various schemes to ensure "pay equity" between men and women. Of course, equal pay for equal work is already the law of the land. Since 1963, the Equal Pay Act has made it illegal for an employer to pay a female worker less than her male counterpart, so long as they are performing the same job. But it is not illegal for employers to pay different wages to employees who perform different jobs, even if the jobs seem in some way comparable.

If, for example, a company employs both computer software programmers, who are mostly men, and librarians, who are mostly women, nothing in the law now mandates that the employer pay them the same wages. But "pay equity" advocates would like to change that.They argue that workers should be compensated based on their education, experience, responsibility and working conditions. If programmers and librarians measure the same on these criteria, then, their pay should be equal. Any pay differential that favors the mostly male programmers must be discrimination, according to the feminists.

Of course, the feminists and Democrat politicians who make this claim probably haven't tried to hire any software programmers lately. If they did, they would quickly find that the supply of those trained to program software can't keep up with the demand, which is why employers are willing to pay a premium for programmers' services, no matter what their gender. On the other hand, there are more women -- and men -- with degrees in library science than there are jobs to accommodate them, which is why their salaries remain lower than they might deserve. Sex doesn't have anything to do with it.

Belly-Akers: Bubba and soccer star
But what about soccer players? Those marvelous women who won the World Cup last July were performing the same job as the men, only doing it better. So, why shouldn't they make at least as much money as their male counterparts?

Well, maybe they should. And if they can generate the same enthusiasm and audience for their future games as they did last summer, I'm betting they will, eventually.

For now, the U.S. Soccer Federation, which employs both teams, claims the men's team generated about $4.1 million last year to the women's $1.6 million. In essence, that's the current market for the two teams, which could change if the women keep outperforming and out-drawing the men. If so, the federation would be foolhardy to keep the women's wages lower, especially if it means the best players refuse to play, as about 20 of the champion players have during this labor dispute.

Michelle Akers and her teammates would be better off placing their faith in the market to reward their skills than in some bureaucratic "pay equity" scheme that has little chance of passing.

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©1999, Creators Syndicate