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How GM Factory Workers Won the First Major Court Battle Over Equal Pay for Equal Work

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It is rare for the heroes of the American Labor Movement to be honored in history, even more rarely The great role of women Admittedly. Smithsonian Magazine overcame this trend and published an excellent profile of one of the organization’s mothers, Florence St.

Male workers at Olds earn 97 cents for every 76 cents earned by a woman. That doesn’t sit well with St. John, who worked in auto factories for the previous 10 years of her life. She would train newly hired male employees only to actually see them being paid close to a dollar an hour for her three-quarters and a cent. And it’s not like women are given any lighter work than men. Are from Smithsonian:

St. John first discovered wage disparities in “checks of billiards”—a form of poker in which workers played with their paychecks for fun on the factory floor. Time and again, St. This curious game of chance would eventually scale to trial and lead to the first major award of damages in a discriminatory case in American history — an important but overlooked struggle. oblivion has inspired women and legislatures across the country to achieve the goal of pay equality.

Lower wages don’t mean women have to shoulder lighter burdens, who among other tasks have to haul giant pans filled with car parts weighing up to 200 pounds, often without assistance. . If they do not meet the strictly enforced quotas, the men and women know they will lose their jobs. In the dense conference room, St. John works with women, including her friend Merreta Cobb, and men, as workers twist steel strips together to create an intricate part known as a harmonic balancer – a sturdy 5-pound saucer that absorbs vibrations. otherwise it will damage the engine. When it comes to assembling balances, women equal men in strength, skill and daring, as their male colleagues attest. It felt like they were all in it together.

Inspired by the world-shaking Sit-Down strike of 1936 at the GM plants in Flint, which resulted in much better wages and working conditions, St. John decided to confront management about the pay disparity with a little-known Michigan law that never enforced the wage disparity ban. between the sexes. When they kicked her out of St. John and 28 other women found themselves as attorneys in an early example of a class action. After six grueling weeks in court, where GM called its female employees essentially useless, these women were awarded $55,690, almost a million dollars today. GM would appeal the decision until 1945 — three years after factories were federally required to pay women engaged in wartime manufacturing at the same hourly wages as men.

Stanford Law School professor David Engstrom called the St. a newspaper in 2017. The War of St.

You can read more about St. John and her brave fellow workers here.

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