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Women Get Lower Pay

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The University of Michigan is by no means unique in underpaying women and keeping them in the lowest job levels. Nationally, women make up 39 percent of the labor forcé, and four out of five of them are in the lowest level jobs- clerical and household workers, waitresses and sales clerks. Only two out of five professionals are female, but 99 per cent of all secretaries are. One out of ten doctors, one out of twenty lawyers and one out of fifty engineers are women. At the same time, the proportion of women in the professions has actually been Jeclining. In terms of earning power, a female college gradúate makes little more than a male who has finished elementar. school. On the average, a woman makes about three-fifths the salary of a man-about $5,900 to the male's $10,200. Many occupations traditionally occupied by women have been specifically excluded from federal minimum wage legislation. Household workers were not covered until last May, and waitresses stül are not covered. Michigan law does set a minimum wage level which covers restaurants, but most employers continue to pay below that level claiming tips make up the difference, whether it actually does or not. Women not only receive less money while they are working. but also after they retire. Most pension plans pay a woman less than a man who paid in the same amount, justifying the practice on the basis that women have a longer average lifespan than men (no help if a woman dies two years after retirement). Most pension plans do not provide money for the husband of a woman who has died before her benefits run out (while the reverse is relatively common). Women have been making a number of efforts to change some of these problems both through demanding affirmative actiqn programs in businesses and colleges, and through unionizing. Until recently, most clericals. waitresses and household workers were not unionized, but a recent trend is towards ever increasing numbers of unions for these workers (in Ann Arbor, for example, the UM clericals and Win Schuler's waitresses are organizing). Caucuses within unions specifically to deal with the problems of the working women are rising. A new national or ganization. the Coalition of Labor Union Women. got together at a Chicago conference last spring to help women in unions push for feminist demands, as most unions are dominated by men just as is the rest of society. Of course. the problems go far beyond equaJ pay. and are deeply rooted in the American capitalist and sexist system. Women can not be "equal" until that system is changed. Additional témale doctors, lawyers or engineers who moVe up the ladder only to underpay their household help and babysitters will not change the overall status of women. Until a classless economie and non-sexist system begins to replace the current one, women will find all the "gains" are made at the expense of other women. We must work together not only for more money and status for ourselves. but for a ketter society for all women and oppressed peo pie.