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April 2018 - Equal pay for women


In an early attempt to promote equal pay for women, the Northwest Joint Council of the Building Service Employees International Union wrote to City Council in December 1942 asking the councilmembers to endorse a bill to be considered in the Washington State Legislature the next year.

The bill was to be based on a petition to the state's Industrial Welfare Commission, which was enclosed with the letter. The petition asked that an order be adopted "to the effect that no employers of labor in this state, employing both males and females, shall discriminate in any way in the payment of wages as between sexes, or shall pay any female a less wage, be it time or piece work or salary, than is being paid to males similarly employed, or in any employment formerly performed by males." (Since World War II was well underway at this point, there were many women employed in formerly all-male workplaces.)

Lest we think that the petition was a thoroughly modern document, it should be noted that it concluded with the proviso that "no female shall be given any task disproportionate to her strength, nor shall she be employed in any place detrimental to her morals or health."

In their letter, the Northwest Joint Council included a long list of labor unions which were promoting the bill. They also noted that the Board of King County Commissioners had already unanimously endorsed the measure, and added that they believed City Council "will also give favorable consideration, since it is the established policy of the City to pay its own employees on the basis of merit, without discrimination because of sex."

The City Council placed the letter and petition on file, but no further action seems to have been taken at that time.