Raising the Ante

Raising the AnteCASE 11.3 Raising the AnteHaving spearheaded the women?s cause on behalf of equal pay for jobs of equal value, Phyllis Warren waselated when the board decided to readjust salaries. Its decision meant Phyllis and the other womenemployed by the manufacturing firm would receive pay equivalent to men doing work of comparableworth. But in a larger sense it con-stituted an admission of guilt by the board, acknowledgment of ahistory blemished by implicit sexual discrimination. In the euphoria that followed the board?s decision,neither Phyllis nor any of the other activists thought much about the implied admission of femaleexploitation. But some weeks later, Herm Leggett, a sales dispatcher, half- jokingly sug-gested to Phyllisover lunch that she shouldn?t stop with equal pay now. Phyllis asked Herm what he meant. ? Back pay,?Herm said without hesitation. ? If they?re re??adjusting salaries for women,? he explained, ? theyobviously know that salaries are out of line and have been for some time.? Then he asked her pointedly, ?How long you been here, Phyl?? Eleven years, she told him. ? If those statistics you folks were passingaround last month are accurate,? Herm said, ? then I?d say you?ve been losing about $ 2,000 a year, or $22,000 over eleven years.? Then he added with a laugh, ? Not counting interest, of course.? ? Why not??Phyllis thought. Why shouldn?t she and other women who?d suffered past inequities be reimbursed? Thatnight Phyllis called a few of the other women and suggested that they press the board for back pay.Some said they were satisfied and didn?t think they should force the issue. Others thought the firm hadbeen fair in readjusting the salary schedule, and they were willing to let bygones be bygones. Stillothers thought that any further efforts might, in fact, roll back the board?s favorable decision. Yet anucleus agreed that workers who had been unfairly treated in the past ought to receive compensation.They decided, however, that because their ranks were divided, they shouldn?t wage as intense an in-house campaign as previously but instead take the issue directly to the board, while it might still beinhaling deeply the fresh air of social responsibility. The following Wednesday, Phyllis and four otherwomen presented their case to the board, intentionally giving the impression that they enjoyed as muchsupport from other workers as they had the last time they appeared before it. Although this wasn?ttrue, Phyllis suggested it as an effective strategic ploy. Phyllis?s presentation had hardly ended whenboard mem-bers began making their feelings known. One called her proposal ? industrial blackmail.? ? Nosooner do we try to right an injustice,? he said testily, ? than you take our good faith and threaten tobeat us over the head with it unless we comply with your request.? Another member just as vigorouslyargued that the cur-rent board couldn?t be held accountable for the actions, poli-cies, and decisions ofprevious boards. ? Sure,? he said, ? we?re empowered to alter policies as we see fit and as conditionschange to chart new directions. And we?ve done that. But to expect us to bear the full financial liabilityof decisions we never made is totally unrealistic? and unfair.? Still another member wondered where itwould all end. ? If we agree,? he asked, ? will you then suggest we should track down all those womenwho ever worked for us and provide them compensation?? Phyllis said no, but the board should readjustretirement benefits for those affected. At this point the board asked Phyllis if she had any idea what herproposal would cost the firm. ? Whatever it is, it?s a small price to pay for righting wrong,? she saidfirmly. ? But is it a small price to pay for severely damaging our profit picture?? one of the membersasked. Then he added, ? I needn?t remind you that our profit outlook directly affects what we can offerour current employees in terms of salary and fringe benefits. It directly affects our ability to revise oursalary schedule.? Finally, he asked Phyllis whether she?d accept the board?s reducing everyone?s currentcompensa-tion to meet what Phyllis termed the board?s ? obligation to the past.? Despite its decidedopposition to Phyllis?s proposal, the board agreed to consider it and render a decision at its nextmeeting. As a final broadside, Phyllis hinted that, if the board didn?t comply with the committee?srequest, the committee was prepared to pursue legal action.Discussion Questions1. If you were a board member, how would you vote? Why?2. What moral principles are involved in this case?3. Do you think Phyllis Warren was unfair in taking advantage of the board?s implied admission of salarydiscrimination on the basis of sex? Why or why not?4. Do you think Phyllis was wrong in giving the board the impression that her proposal enjoyed broadsupport? Why or why not?5. If the board rejects the committee?s request, do you think the committee ought to sue? Givereasons.!

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