Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Will Wal-Mart v. Dukes Become Another Wicked Case of Whiner Fatigue?

From Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert:

"I've been experiencing a wicked case of "whiner fatigue." It feels as if everyone in the world is whining about one damn thing or another. In normal times, I can tune it out. But lately the backdrop has been world class problems on the order of financial meltdowns, tsunamis, nuclear radiation, and bloody revolutions. THOSE are problems. Your thing: Not so much."
What prompted this case of whiner fatigue was the backlash to his blogging the following:

"The reality is that women are treated differently by society for exactly the same reason that children and the mentally handicapped are treated differently. It’s just easier this way for everyone. You don’t argue with a four-year old about why he shouldn’t eat candy for dinner. You don’t punch a mentally handicapped guy even if he punches you first. And you don’t argue when a women tells you she’s only making 80 cents to your dollar. It’s the path of least resistance. You save your energy for more important battles."
Scott Adams got called a misogynist for his troubles. The Other McCain humorously offers up this definition of misogynist: A guy who thinks feminists are funny when they’re angry. I'll add to that: A guy who thinks feminists are sexy when they’re angry is a sado-masochist.

Just what is a man supposed to say when confronted with the statistic that women make 80 cents on the dollar when compared to men doing the same work?

(1) You can shrug your shoulders in tacit agreement of how unfair life is and perhaps express a wish that something be done about it, while secretly wishing that does not mean having your own pay cut.

(2) You can express the viewpoint that in your own experience the pay differential for truly equal work is usually not that significant, which is essentially what Scott Adams hinted at while also admitting that the first response would be the path of least resistance. You're not going to win this argument, even if you are right.

(3) You can offer up various rationalizations for why women should be paid less than men and perhaps have better things to do for their family than hang out by the water cooler with Dilbert. This will earn you the wrath of feminists and career women, but actually does resonate with the not-so-dying breed of women who wouldn't mind having a husband who is able to support them financially.

(4) You can go to your boss and offer to take a pay cut and give the woman half the pay difference to equalize your pay with hers. When you tell your wife or girlfriend you have done this, however, she will think you are having an affair.

So, when it comes to pay equity, the radical feminists are not wrong when they think men are either trying to screw them or get in their pants. But they do lack perspective. Because feminists want to get into men's pants too, at least into their pants pockets.

Equal pay for equal work is a great slogan but what does it mean? I've never seen two employees that did equal work. One is always faster, more efficient, less error prone, easier to work with, more profitable, ... worth paying more.

In rural Iowa where I grew up, high school kids were hired to walk beans - walk through soybean bean fields and weed out weeds. The teenage girls always got these good-paying jobs, because the male farmers thought them to be faster workers and more reliable than teenage boys. Mothers were the same way about only hiring girls as babysitters. If a farmer wanted hay bales loaded or a widow wanted her lawn mowed, they hired a boy. Was that discrimination?

And I think that is where Scott Adams is really coming from, to quote him from another context:

"In reality, fairness is not so much about the actual distribution of loot as it is about the psychology of how you feel about it."
That brings us to Wal-Mart v. Dukes, a pay equity and promotion equity case that will be argued today in the U.S. Supreme Court with a decision likely this summer. Lawyers want to certify a class action on behalf of 1.5 million female employees in 53 departments and 170 job classifications, across 50 states and 3,400 Wal-Mart stores.

It's stories like this one that got Wal-Mart into this jam:

DARREN GERSH, PBS NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT CORRESPONDENT: For years, Chris Kwapnoski trained men who were soon promoted over her at Wal-Mart. Eventually, she asked a manager what she had to do to get ahead.

CHRIS KWAPNOSKI, WAL-MART EMPLOYEE: And he told me I need to blow the cobwebs off my makeup and doll up.
Dress for success is what they used to call that kind of advice, although you can't read that and not wonder what the manager was thinking and how much that's going to cost Wal-Mart.

The biggest shareholders at Wal-Mart are billionaires Christy Ruth Walton and Alice Louise Walton. You see, in the real world, whenever you tax a man for his alleged misbehavior to women, another woman quite often bears the burdens of that tax.

Over 43 petitions and briefs have been filed in the case. And this is just to decide if the case can be brought as a class action. If lawyers for the women win, they still have to go back to the lower courts to prove discrimination. That's a lot of whining and could go on for years. It's already gone on for 10 years. The path of least resistance, a settlement and some sort of dolled-up promise not to do it again, could prove very attractive to Wal-Mart.

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