What Does 'Equal Pay for Equal Work' Mean?

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"In America everybody is of the opinion that he has no social superiors, since all men are equal, but he does not admit that he has no social inferiors, for, from the time of Jefferson onward, the doctrine that all men are equal applies only upwards, not downwards."

~ Bertrand Russell

Well, that didn’t take long.

In the first official bill signing of his administration, President Barack Obama struck a blow for the equality of all workers! Or at least that’s what he (and I reckon his supporters) think he did. There is much to discuss with regard to this issue, and I’ll get to that, but before I do, I think I better head off some knee-jerk reactions that this essay might generate.

No, I’m not a Republican, and even though House Republicans sought to block this bill, I am under no illusion that many of them have even a faint clue. (Even a broken clock is correct twice a day.)

No, I’m not of the opinion that men and women should be paid differently for the same work, but frankly, that’s not my decision to make. Given that value is subjective, I am not even sure what the term, "the same work" even means. (I will cover both of these issues below.)

What Is Important versus What Is Not

If anyone needed indication that many of the House Republicans who opposed this bill were just as clueless as many of the House Democrats who supported it, this quote should mitigate that confusion.

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Wilt Alston [send him mail] lives in Rochester, NY, with his wife and three children. When he's not training for a marathon or furthering his part-time study of libertarian philosophy, he works as a principal research scientist in transportation safety, focusing primarily on the safety of subway and freight train control systems.

Wilton D. Alston Archives

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