Newly Released Documents Reveal Roberts’ Opposition to Pay Equity Measures

Supreme Court justice nominee John Roberts wrote in strong opposition to a Washington state judge’s effort to address pay equity during his work as associate White House counsel to the Reagan administration. Yesterday, the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library released more than 5,000 pages of records from Roberts’ years of service early in the Reagan administration. These records reveal Roberts’ stance against “comparable worth,” a means of remedying pay inequities resulting from sex segregation in the workforce and unequal pay scales between traditionally “female” and “male” jobs.

In 1983, in an effort to address pay inequities in the state of Washington, a federal judge established new pay scales in job categories in which women made up 70 percent or more of the employees. The new pay scales were intended to ensure equal pay for jobs of equal value, or “comparable worth.” Three Republican women members of Congress – then-Rep. Olympia Snowe (ME) (now a US Senator), then-Rep. Claudine Schneider (RI), and Rep. Nancy Johnson (CT) – wrote a letter urging the Reagan Administration to accept the judge’s ruling, writing that “support for pay equity…is not a partisan issue,” according to the Washington Post. In his response to their letter, Roberts called “comparable worth” a “radical redistributive concept” and went on to ridicule the women representatives, saying, “Their slogan may as well be, ‘from each according to his ability, to each according to her gender.'” In a memo to White House Counsel Fred F. Fielding in February of 1984, Roberts further denounced “comparable worth” pay equity measures, writing, “It is difficult to exaggerate the perniciousness of the ‘comparable worth’ theory. It mandates nothing less than central planning of the economy by judges,” reports the Chicago Tribune.

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Chicago Tribune8/16/05; New York Times 8/16/05; Washington Post 8/16/05; Boston Globe 8/16/05

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