Thank The U.S. Women’s Soccer Team For Illuminating The Muddled Ethics Of Wage Gap Arguments In Women’s Professional Sports

News item (April 5, 2017):

The U.S. women’s soccer players’ union and the sport’s governing body have agreed to a five-year collective bargaining agreement, improving standards for the national team and pro league and ensuring labor harmony through the next World Cup and Olympics.

In a joint statement, the U.S. Women’s National Team Players Association and U.S. Soccer Federation said they have “ratified a new collective bargaining agreement which will continue to build the women’s program in the U.S., grow the game of soccer worldwide and improve the professional lives of players on and off the field. We are proud of the hard work and commitment to thoughtful dialogue reflected through this process, and look forward to strengthening our partnership moving forward.”

The sides had been operating under the terms of the previous deal, which expired Dec. 31. In recent years, the players have raised issues about compensation and working conditions compared to their male counterparts, casting a shadow over the efforts of the most successful women’s team in soccer history and pitting the federation against wildly popular athletes, such as Carli Lloyd and Alex Morgan.

In March 2016, the players  filed a federal complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, charging the USSF with wage discrimination. The case remains active.

Now this, from a day before:

In preparation for two upcoming friendlies against Russia, the U.S. women’s national team played the FC Dallas U-15 boys academy team on Sunday and fell 5-2, according to FC Dallas’ official website. This friendly came as the U.S. looked to tune up before taking on Russia on Thursday night in a friendly.

Ethics musings:

1.  CBS immediately provides cover, writing,

“Of course, this match against the academy team was very informal and should not be a major cause for alarm. The U.S. surely wasn’t going all out, with the main goal being to get some minutes on the pitch, build chemistry when it comes to moving the ball around, improve defensive shape and get ready for Russia.”

No, there’s no cause for alarm, because maybe the Russian women’s team would lose to amateur teenage boys too. But the women have loudly and indignantly insisted that they should be compensated at the same rate as the men’s soccer team. On what basis? If it is that the women’s team makes as much money as the men’s team (it doesn’t), OK, that’s a valid point. If it is that their skill, performance and level of play require equal pay, I think it is clear that facts and reality are not on their side. Continue reading

Observations On The Gadsden Flag Controversy

Gadsden Flag

On the Volokh Conspiracy, now featured on the Washington Post website, Prof. Volokh applies his First Amendment expertise to a recent EEOC decision which ruled that a complaint from an African-American that a fellow worker who repeatedly wore a cap with the famous “Don’t Tread On Me” insignia from the Gadsden flag may have created a hostile work environment at the federal agency both worked for. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission called for further investigation, including an interview of the cap-owner’s intention in wearing the symbol, concluding,

“In light of the ambiguity in the current meaning of this symbol, we find that Complainant’s claim must be investigated to determine the specific context in which C1 displayed the symbol in the workplace. In so finding, we are not prejudging the merits of Complainant’s complaint. Instead, we are precluding a procedural dismissal that would deprive us of evidence that would illuminate the meaning conveyed by C1’s display of the symbol.”

Observations:

1. Now this is the slippery slope. Because murderous racist Dylan Roof posed with the Confederate flag, a tipping point was reached that resulted in the symbol and the flag being effectively and in some respects officially banned. The EEOC had already ruled the wearing a Confederate flag T-shirt constituted racial harassment,. Now the banning of historically significant symbols is threatening to spread to a flag that had no relationship to race whatsoever, in large part because of who has chosen to display it.

2. There is a whole website devoted to the Gadsden flag, from which we learn that…

  • It first appeared in October of 1775, as the British were occupying Boston and the desperate Continental Army was dug in in nearby Cambridge, lacking sufficient arms and ammunition.  In October, a merchant ship returning to Philadelphia from a voyage to England brought private letters to the Second Continental Congress informing it that  England was sending two cargo ships to America loaded with arms and gunpowder for the British troops.
  • Congress decided Washington’s troops’ plight required that those ships and their cargo be captured. It authorized the creation of a Continental Navy, then only four vessels, to take the ships. Congress also authorized the mustering of five companies of Marines. Some of the Marines enlisting that month in Philadelphia carried drums painted yellow, emblazoned with a  rattlesnake with thirteen rattles, coiled and ready to strike, accompanied by the motto “Don’t Tread on Me.”
  • That same December, a citizen calling himself  “An American Guesser,” anonymously wrote to the Pennsylvania Journal, saying in part:

“I observed on one of the drums belonging to the marines now raising, there was painted a Rattle-Snake, with this modest motto under it, ‘Don’t tread on me.’ As I know it is the custom to have some device on the arms of every country, I supposed this may have been intended for the arms of America…the Rattle-Snake is found in no other quarter of the world besides America….She never begins an attack, nor, when once engaged, ever surrenders: She is therefore an emblem of magnanimity and true courage. … she never wounds ’till she has generously given notice, even to her enemy, and cautioned him against the danger of treading on her..

I confess I was wholly at a loss what to make of the rattles, ’till I went back and counted them and found them just thirteen, exactly the number of the Colonies united in America; and I recollected too that this was the only part of the Snake which increased in numbers. …Tis curious and amazing to observe how distinct and independent of each other the rattles of this animal are, and yet how firmly they are united together, so as never to be separated but by breaking them to pieces. One of those rattles singly, is incapable of producing sound, but the ringing of thirteen together, is sufficient to alarm the boldest man living.”

It is generally agreed that the writer was really Benjamin Franklin. Ben had a hand in the design of the flag, since the first use of a rattlesnake to represent the colonies was his own “Join or die” cartoon,

800px-Benjamin_Franklin_-_Join_or_Die

…published years earlier. Continue reading

Is It Fair For A Business To Discriminate Against the Homely?

 

Take your pick!

The EEOC is investigating a popular Boston area coffee shop chain, alleging that it discriminates in favor of attractive young waitresses to the detriment of older or more homely waitresses. The management of Marylou’s disputes the accusation, arguing that its hiring pool is disproportionately young and attractive.

I don’t want to get into the actual guilt or innocence here, but rather muse about the ethical issue. Should there be laws preventing employers from using attractiveness as a criteria in hiring, if it is relevant to the success of the business, or even if it is not? If a coffee shop owner’s patrons are overwhelmingly male, and the owner believes that having waitresses who look good in a starched uniform makes the customers happy and more likely to spend their money, why should the law prevent that? Is there anything really wrong with the conduct? Continue reading