What's Wrong with the Equal ... How to achieve equality for those with special problems, special needs

What's Wrong with the Equal Rights Amendment?
How to achieve equality for those with
special problems, special needs
CCT^QUAL” is defined by Webster
-*‫ ^־־‬as “ like in value, status, quality, or position.” For persons or
groups to achieve equality not only of
opportunity but of status or position,
however, it is often necessary to provide more to one group to make it
equal to another, because the former
had been more deprived and started
out with less than the latter. That is
why we have head start program s
and compensatory education for underprivileged children. (In the state of
Israel, incidentally, there is a program whereby increasing num bers of
the children of North African and
Asian Jews are given special schooling
to help them become equal to the
more culturally and educationally
Jews.) That is why industry, which
has for generations discrim inated
against non-whites, is now being
asked to train and employ them. And
when some construction unions object
on the ground that this would be
instituting a quota system, they ignore
the fact that they have had their own
brand of quota system, which tacitly
M rs. B i l l i e
P o rtn o w
of Flushing,
N. Y. wrote the article, “50 Years of
W om ans S u f f r a g e i n our Sept.,
1970 issue.
barred non-whites from the industry.
To ask them now to give preference
in training to blacks is to ask them
to right a wrong by helping those
formerly discriminated against to
improve the “quality” and “value” of
their work so they can achieve equal
“ status” and “position.”
It is in this light that the equalrights-for-women amendment must be
regarded. Does this amendment, which
has been introduced in every session
of Congress for the past 47 years,
improve the status and position of
women and enhance the quality of
their lives?
The amendment states simply:
“Equality of rights under the law shall
not be denied or abridged by the
United States or any State on account
of sex.” This innocuous-sounding proposal has touched off a heated debate
in Congress that has reverberated
throughout the land and finds women
on both sides of the issue.
Inherent in this seemingly benign
amendment lies the potential danger
of placing in jeopardy the hard-won
protective legislation for working
women. This protective legislation has
already been sorely undermined by
Title V II of the Civil Rights Act of
1964, which prohibits discrimination
in conditions of employment but has
no regard for the special needs of
J e w is h C u r r e n t s
women. This Act was further weakened
by the interpretation by the Equal
Employment Opportunity Commission in 1969 to mean that all state
labor laws in conflict with Title VII,
including, therefore, protective legislation for women, will be disregarded.
This legislation includes state labor
laws on such matters as weight-lifting
limitations and maximum working
hours for women.
Adherents of the Equal Rights
Amendment maintain that maximum
hour restrictions prevent women from
earning overtime pay. But Myra K.
Wolfgang, Vice-President of the Hotel
and Restaurant Employees and Bartenders International Union AFL, in
her testimony on the Equal Rights
Amendment before the Senate Judiciary Committee Sept. 9, 1970, replied:
“ . . . the passage of an hours limitation law for women provided them
with a shield against obligatory
overtime to perm it them to carry on
their life at home as wives and
mothers. While all overtime should be
optional for both men and women, it
is absolutely m andatory that overtime
for women be regulated because of
her dual role in our society” (italics
ad d ed ).
Many union contracts do provide
for voluntary overtime for both men
and women. However, since about 80
per cent of working women are unorganized, the policy resolution on
women adopted by the 8th Constitutional Convention of the AFL-CIO
Oct., 1969 declared that protective
laws are necessary for “those women
workers for whom alternate forms of
protection either by public law or
union contract are not available. Until
adequate protection for all workers
can be secured under general legislation, reasonable legal safeguards
should be available for those women
J u l y -A u g u st , 1 9 7 1
who are most in need of them.” This
resolution also expressed opposition
to the Equal Rights Amendment “because of its potentially destructive
impact on women’s labor legislation.”
The state of Michigan in 1968 provided us with an example of what
happens when protective legislation
is discarded, when it repealed the 10‫־‬
hour-day, 54-hour-week work law for
women. Women in the auto industry
were thereafter required to work up
to 69 hours a week in seven days or
risk the loss of employment! When
the State Attorney General sought to
reinstate the 54‫־‬hour‫־‬week this was,
strangely, opposed as discrim inatory
even by the W omen’s D epartm ent of
the UAW. This mechanical position
fortunately was challenged by other
unions and m ajor women’s groups
(including the National Council of
Jewish W om en), which fought for and
won the reinstatem ent of protective
legislation for women. Their victory,
however, was short-lived since this
legislation was again repealed in
Dec., 1969 by a legislature that based
itself on the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s interpretation,
cited above, that in effect nullified
state protective legislation.
In other states, moreover, Title V II
was also used to invalidate protective
laws among female telephone and paperm ill workers, the latter having been
made to work double shift without
tim e and a half overtime and to lift
heavy weights. In one mill the lunch
hour was eliminated and replaced by
three 10 minute breaks. In some
plants of Bell Telephone and Fibreboard Corp. (paper m ills), notices
have been posted inform ing women
that their protective laws have been invalidated because of Title V II of Civil
Rights Act of 1964. More recently, a
Federal District Court M arch 27
voided sections of an Ohio law p ro ­
viding for special consideration for
women’s special needs, with General
M otors and two union locals protesting the protection of women.
day and spend the remaining half
with his or her children and share in
the housework. Certainly the children
at home or in the child-care centers
can profit from the care, love and
The m istake m ade by pro p o n en ts wisdom of adults of both sexes.
of the Equal Rights Amendment is in
Provisions should also be made
assuming that sameness of treatm ent of for adequate tax deductions for
different groups results in equality. child-care expenses of working mothers
Where prior inequities exist, identity as well as for adequate paid m aternity
of treatm ent can never result in leave. Rep. Edward I. Koch (D-N.Y.)
equality. Aside from physical-biologi- has introduced legislation for adequate
cal differences, the inequities stem tax deductions.
from woman’s dual role in our society.
In the m atter of child-care centers
Of 30,000,000 women in the labor and vocational training for women,
force, 60 per cent of them are m arried we might well take a leaf from Pioneer
and 38 per cent have children, most Women, whose sister organization in
of whom are minors. Freedom from, Israel, Moetzet Hapoalet, one half
or a reduction of, housework, there- million strong, is concerned with the
fore, is a precondition for equal job status of women and children (their
opportunity for women.
main emphasis is on working and
To unburden herself of some of underprivileged women) and espouses
the duties imposed upon her by this their equality of rights. To fulfill the
unequal set-up, a woman needs:
needs of working women, the W orking
a more equitable division of Women’s Council of H istadrut has
labor in the home and an extensive been formed, which instituted daynetwork of 24-hour-a-day child-care care centers and provided funds for
centers (24 hours so that women them. They have set up a number of
working evening and night shifts can nurseries for deprived youngsters and
also avail themselves of this service vocational training programs for
as can women who become ill and women. Arab women and children are
have no one to care for their chil- also included in these services. It is
d re n ). Congresswoman Bella S. Abzug regrettable that with such considerable
(D-N.Y.) is sponsoring a bill (H.R. experience in this field, Pioneer
8402, now in the Education and Women does not parallel these activiLabor Committee) which would allot ties in our country, where the need is
at least $10 billion by the end of this also great. Fortunately this function
decade to provide such centers. In- has been assumed by the National
dustry, too, should provide such Council of Jewish Women, which at
facilities to its employees. These its last convention, March, 1971,
centers should have as m any qualified reported on its 50 child-care centers
males caring for the children as throughout the country. These cut
females. If child-rearing is the most across socio-economic and social lines.
satisfying and rew arding of experi2)
the right of abortion. So long
ences, why, therefore, should not the as sex-education and birth-control
devices are not free and readily availmale parent share in this experience?
Women’s Libers are calling for the able to all segments of the population,
restructuring of society so that each the right of a woman to terminate an
parent can work half of a working unwanted pregnancy is basic. An ex­
J e w is h C u r r en ts
ample of the intensity of feeling cation for opposition to the proposed
among women on this issue was the Equal Rights Amendment, the question
grass roots movement that developed still rem ains: does existing legislation
at the Nov., 1970 convention of the negate the necessity for some kind of
National Women’s League (Conserva- Equal Rights Amendment? The 5th
tive Sisterhoods) and caused the fol- and 11th Amendments for example,
lowing resolution to be adopted decree that no one shall be deprived
unanimously: “The National Women’s of life, liberty and property without
League of the USA believes that in- due process of law and that all shall
herent in the civil rights of women is have equal protection of the law, and
the freedom of choice as to birth the 19th Amendment gives the vote
control and abortion. We believe that to women. Also, the Equal Pay Act of
all laws infringing on these rights 1963 provides for equal pay for
should be repealed.” These services equal work regardless of sex. Yet it
required the vigilance of the trade
should be freely available.
full opportunities for vocational, union movement to include a clause in
technical and professional training this Act which prohibits an employer
and education and equal opportunities from reducing wages in order to comin employment on all levels of busi- ply with it. (Contrast this with the
ness and government. Society as a proposed Equal Rights Amendment
whole suffers when it is denied the which has no provisions fo r prohibitspecial talents of any particular group. ing the reduction of wages, benefits,
“ W hat,” wonders Shana Alexander etc. in order to comply with its
(in Feb. McCall’s ), “has the absence standard of equality.) Finally, under
of women meant to the practice of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 discrimilaw, to the design and m arketing of nation by employers and unions is
consumer products, in city planning, prohibited and an Equal Employment
in educational reform, in the character Opportunity Commission is set up.
Despite these safeguards, some of
of our police and correction and parole
system, or our use of foundation the worst abuses are still perm itted to
funds, or our concepts and adminis- exist, particularly as they affect martration of w elfare?” And Mrs. Vir- ried women. In 42 states, income and
ginia Snitow, president of the Women’s property acquired by each spouse durremains
Division of the American Jewish Con- ing m arriage
gress and co-chairman of AJC Govern- owned. Since the wife does not have
ing Council, has said that the United much opportunity for such acquisition,
States was “beset by so many troubling she is disadvantaged. The rem aining
and complex problems that we need eight states apply the communitythe fullest talents of every citizen, re- property principal whereby all acquisigardless of race, creed, national origin tions during m arriage are jointly
owned. However, in seven of these
— or sex.”
eight states the husband has the exIf these legitim ate 9 specific de - elusive right to control and manage
mands of women are not met, equal the estate. In order to open up a busiright clauses now on our statue books ness in some states, wives must prove
and generalized calls for equal rights their fitness although single women
per se are meaningless— for women and widows, as well as men, must not.
must be given “m ore” to be “equal.” In New Mexico, upon the death of his
Although there is ample justifi­ wife, the husband receives all her
J u l y -A u g u s t ,
property but not so the wife who outlives her husband. No wonder a
leading women’s magazine declares:
44In most states of the Union, the most
sacrificial act a woman can perform
is to get m arried. There are more
than 1,000 state laws that discriminate against women’s right to property inheritance, guardianship, management of earnings and the control
of a family’s wealth—and the married woman is their principal victim.”
Other state laws that discim rinate on
the basis of sex include discrim ination
in bond-making, contracts, punishm ent
in crim inal laws, educational opportunities, morals, right to sue, ownership of stocks and bonds and divorce.
(On this latter issue, Dr. Trude WeissRosmarin, editor of the Jewish
Spectator, strongly advocated in an
article in the London Jewish Chronicle
of Sept. 18, 1970, the redressing of
the inequality in Orthodox Jewish
law whereby only the husband has
the right of divorce.)
Equal Rights proponents, to whose
ranks have recently been added, regrettably, the W omen’s Division of
the American Jewish Congress, say that
their amendment is directed against
these and other abuses. Opponents say
that all such discrim inatory practices
can be dealt with by court action
under our present constitution (particularly the 14th amendment) and
through the enactment of specific
legislation without destroying protective legislation and opening up a
Pandora’s box of endless litigation.
44For the sake of a few legal discriminations, which can be eliminated by
simple repeal, should we jeopardize a
whole body of law dealing with complex personal and family relationships,
m ilitary service, age of consent, etc.?”
asked the N ational Council of Jewish
Women in its statement in opposition
to the Equal Rights Amendment. The
statement resolved “to endorse rneasures which establish the principles
and equality of the legal status of
women, while opposing any so-called
4Equal Rights’ amendment which may
destroy protective legislation
A t the last session o f Congress,
Sen. Birch Bayh (D‫־‬Ind.) introduced
a substitute amendment which would
add 46on account of sex” to the provisions of the 14th Amendment. Sen.
Sam J. Ervin (D-N.C.) also introduced
an amendment which took into account
the special needs of women. Both of
these were opposed by the supporters
of the original Equal Rights Amendment, who do not speak for the m ajority of American women. A more representative view was expressed by
Gertrude Rubin Decker of the Emma
Lazarus Federation of Jewish Women’s
Clubs in her statement to the Senate
Judiciary Committee, 44We . . . would
support an equal rights amendment
wbich would take into consideration
the special requirements of women and
which thereby would really guarantee
full equality. . . .”
It is noteworthy that the Nixon administration, unlike its predecessors,
favored the objectionable Equal Rights
Amendment. Pres. John F. Kennedy’s
Commission on the Status of Women
(1963), in rejecting this amendment,
declared: 44Since the Commission is
convinced that the U.S. Constitution
now embodies equality of rights for
men and women, we conclude that a
constitutional amendment need not
now be sought in order to establish
this principle.” The differing positions
can be explained by the fact that the
Kennedy and Johnson Advisory Councils were composed of women from
all walks of life and held public hearings, whereas the Nixon Advisory
Council on the Status of Women is
J e w is h C u r r en ts
June 9— Since our statement in the June issue (p. 4 4 ), the Leningrad
trial of nine Jews was completed and the Riga trial of four Jews was
conducted, again with foreign correspondents excluded. The promise
extended in Jan. to the French lawyer, A ndre Blumel, head of the
French-Soviet Friendship Society, that he would be invited as an observer to further trials has not been kept. May 15 the Paris communist
Neie Presse reported that MRAP, the French Movement against Fascism, Racism and Anti-Semitism, in which left-wingers are active, expressed its concern over the impending trials. May 14 the Neie Presse
itself editorially deplored the exclusion of foreign correspondents from
the trials. In Leningrad the sentences were: one of 10 years, one of 7,
two of 5, one of 4, three of 3 and one of one year. In Riga the sentences
were one of 3, one of 2 and two of one year. More trials are expected
shortly in Odessa, Kishinev and perhaps Sverdlovsk. The Soviet authorities would be well advised to stop these trials and perm it those who
wish to do so to emigrate to Israel, as all the defendants have declared
their desire to be.
Most of the charges in the Leningrad and Riga trials have dealt with
the circulation by the defendants of “ anti-Soviet” or un-Soviet materials. Tass has not specified what these publications contained (beyond
the characterization that they were all 44slanderous” ). From other
sources we learn that among the materials illegally m imeographed and
circulated were: excerpts from Dubnow’s great history of the Jews, excerpts from the Slovak commjunist Ladislas M niacko’s The Aggressor,
rebutting the charge that Israel was the aggressor in June, 1967, and
materials on em igration to Israel. Whatever laws may have been broken,
it is hard to see such materials as criminal.
composed almost solely of business
and professional women, and held no
public hearings.
While these upper middle-class
women reject protective legislation as
discriminatory, women in the shop, in
domestic service, etc. require more of
it, not less. 44Protective legislation,”
wrote Dr. Sara Feder of Pioneer
Women in an article dedicated to
International Women’s Day (Pioneer
Woman, March, 1962), 44has been of
tremendous importance to the working
woman and mother. In lim iting hours
of work, setting health standards, and
eliminating abuses in home work,
such legislation has secured for her
im portant gains.”
J u l y -A u g u s t ,
In the present session of Congress
an equal rights amendment (House
Judiciary Resolution 2 0 8 ), which
jeopardizes protective legislation for
women, has been introduced and it
should be vigorously opposed. Efforts
should be made to introduce a bill that
takes into account the special needs of
women a»d, if it is passed, an educational campaign should be instituted to
guarantee full implementation. We
have learned from the black experience
that a change in status by fiat does not
bring with it a change in attitudes. If
this were not so, there would be no
demand for a real equal rights amendment. Education and struggle go hand
in hand.