By Aaron Fishell
There is a story in the New Testament that I think is applicable to the struggle with pay equity at Western Michigan University.
In Matthew, Jesus tells the parable about some day labors who agreed to work for a certain wage. When they found out their boss was paying other workers more to do the same thing they got mad and protested. Jesus said they were wrong in doing so because they made an agreement and should live up to that agreement. The boss’s arrangement with other workers had nothing to do with them and if they wanted to get paid more they should not have agreed to the original deal.
Women should receive equal pay for equal work, sure. But, it is a little difficult for me to sympathize with anyone who complains openly about contracts they signed themselves. It seems to me this is what several female faculty members at WMU are doing.
Ten female faculty members have filed complaints with the Michigan Department of Civil Rights concerning WMU’s handling of pay equity, according to the school’s head of Gender and Women’s Studies, Dr. Ashlyn Kuersten.
Note: Female faculty members at WMU make about 12 percent less than their male counterparts, according to WMU transparency reports. Nationwide, women made 23 percent less than their male counterparts in 2012, according to the American Association of University Women.
Let’s say on the one hand you have a well-groomed politician in a nice suit talking about the benefits of legalizing marijuana. On the other hand you have a shaggy teenager in a Grateful Dead tee shirt with the same message. Who sounds more credible? The politician, of course, because he appears to be supporting a cause he won’t directly benefit from, whereas the teenager seems like he just wants to smoke pot without fear of repercussion. This is true of any cause: It is more powerful if the voice behind it isn’t someone who will directly benefit. Now, I already see the argument against this: Look at what Martin Luther King Jr. did for the civil rights movement. Counter argument: Robert F. Kennedy. While King made marvelous speeches and stirred up passionate support for the movement, it was Kennedy who actually got the Civil Rights Act passed in Congress.
The women striving for pay equality at WMU are the same women who will directly benefit from a change in the school’s policy. If someone who would not benefit from greater pay equity at WMU made the argument, it would carry a lot more weight. They need their own Bobby Kennedy.