The Georgetown University College Democrats recently held a bake sale in Red Square intended to highlight the wage gap between men and women. The fundraiser used a “pay what you make” basis for prices, so that women would pay less than men. While the exercise was an effective means to bring awareness to a serious issue, it missed the mark in addressing the real causes of wage disparities.
The Democrats’ bake sale took things a step further. Prices were not only separated by gender but also by race. This is a more controversial version of the exercise but still a plausible means to shock people into acknowledging the vast racial divide in terms of income. Democrats emphasized the fact that people of different races get paid different wages for the same work.
Yet, what GUCD is actually claiming to fight is already very illegal. The 1964 Civil Rights Act makes it illegal “to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.” Racial discrimination in the workplace was made illegal in one of the most groundbreaking pieces of legislation in the 20th century.
Exercises like the Democrats’ bake sale are not helpful. The stunt does more to inflame the issue than to deal with it responsibly.
Employees who suspect that their employer is discriminating against them have a vast array of tools to file suit. Organizations like the NAACP, Anti-Defamation League, and even the federally funded EEOC exist largely for this reason. These organizations provide litigation support for cases of employment discrimination because this is, in fact, a very serious issue. Donald Trump, for example, faces a class-action lawsuit for racial discrimination from the 1970s. He is still experiencing the repercussions of his actions to this day. Contrary to what the Democrats are trying to suggest, this is an issue that our system takes seriously.
The claim that income gaps are caused by widespread employment discrimination is simply unfounded. Moreover, it goes against basic logic. Why would a firm risk the costs of a total federal audit, a class-action lawsuit, and the terrible reputation that comes with breaking civil rights laws just to save a few thousand dollars in wages? The business would go bankrupt in a day. Lawyers and federal investigations cost a lot more money than paying workers fairly. The vast majority of Americans would be enraged by any business that so blatantly violated not only our laws but also the very principles our country was founded on.
The claim makes no sense from an economic or moral point of view. The Democrats’ exercise does more to oversimplify the issue and excite passersby than to come up with real answers to these issues. We agree that women are paid less than men. We agree that it is harder for minorities to get jobs than whites. However, the claim that widespread employment discrimination is the main cause of wage gaps is pure fiction.
The United States has very serious racial problems when it comes to income inequality, and Democrats and Republicans have real disagreements about how to fix these problems. But exercises like the Democrats’ bake sale are not helpful. The stunt does more to inflame the issue than to deal with it responsibly. GUCD should stop attacking a straw man and focus on real issues like access to education and healthcare, disparities in the criminal justice system and geographic divisions, issues that fuel the problems we all want to solve.