Next Friday will be a normal payday for many people across the country. But for 35,000 workers in Washington state it will be a historic payday because they will receive raises won in a long-running high-stakes battle for more money for jobs traditionally filled by women. They will share in a $482-million settlement designed to end pay discrimination against the state government’s women employees.
As in a landmark Los Angeles city pay settlement reached last year, the Washington state agreement came the best way--not in the courts but in negotiations between the government and the union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. After the courts split on the question of whether the state was being discriminatory in paying less for jobs most often held by women than for jobs held by men, the state and the union negotiated a settlement.
The settlement doesn’t call for any back pay, which disappointed some workers. But it does call for a 4% pay increase with raises through 1992. For example, one of the nine state employees who sued, secretary Helen Castrilli, will get a $110-a-month raise. She said that the settlement brings “a solid salary increase to reflect the worth of the jobs we hold,” and expressed hope that women will continue to benefit from the Washington state case.
The agreement does not settle all the arguments concerning how to determine a fair wage for work performed. But the underlying principle is undeniable: Discrimination on the basis of sex is wrong. The Los Angeles and Washington cases now stand as models for bargaining discrimination out of pay scales.