The Gerson Lehrnan Group (GLG) published a piece today, titled Dangers of Employment Regulation Through UN Treaty in which the author argues that the UN’s Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) is a Trojan Horse that carries the Paycheck Fairness Act inside.

This 30-year old Convention is a latter-day Trojan Horse with the Paycheck Fairness Act inside.If the Senate did not want the Paycheck Fairness Act, it certainly will not want this convention.  

In a previous post, Hadley Heath pointed out that, whereas some countries who ratified CEDAW offer their women few real protections (e.g. Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, and Rwanda),  the US is in fact a global leader in human rights, and existing protections have made the US one of the best places in the world to be a woman. “Actions speak louder than words [.] [or] reality speaks louder than CEDAW,” Hadley proclaimed.

The GLG article goes further and argues that if CEDAW were ratified by the Senate it would hurt the U.S. economy in similar ways as the Paycheck Fairness Act, which failed in the Senate on November 17.  In particular, two provisions in CEDAW would push the U.S. towards implementing comparable worth policies:

The anti-discrimination Convention goes beyond basic protections for women, such as the right to vote and protection from violent spouses, and mandates equality of outcomes-not opportunity but outcomes-in education, occupation, and earnings. 

Although the Convention sounds harmless-who could be against eliminating discrimination, after all?-it would require the United States to go beyond the provisions of the failed Paycheck Fairness Act in expanding the reach of federal law. 

Consider Article 11 1(d), which calls for “The right to equal remuneration, including benefits, and to equal treatment in respect of work of equal value…” American women are entitled to equal pay for equal work now under the Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, but defining work of equal value, known as comparable worth, would keep UN and American bureaucrats busy for years-nay, forever.  The American Bar Association has issued a document, a so-called Assessment Tool, that describes how to comply with the Convention. 

The ABA notes that “Recommendation No. 13 also provides that States Parties should develop job evaluation systems based on gender-neutral criteria, which would facilitate a comparison of work and value of jobs predominated by men and by women.”  Compensation in America does not go by “value,” a term that lacks unambiguous meaning. In our marketplace economy, value is what a willing buyer will pay–for example, at an auction. In other words, value is determined by supply and demand. 

While some social reformers may deem childcare to be as valuable as what oil drillers do, companies have to pay people more to work on drilling rigs because the work is dangerous and dirty and workers have to be away from families for long periods of time. 

Similarly, violinist Anna-Sophie Mutter’s playing might be deemed by some to be of equal “value” to Madonna’s, but more people will pay higher prices to see Madonna’s concerts, so she earns more. 

The Paycheck Fairness Act would have hurt American workers and businesses in numerous ways. While we celebrate the failure of the Act in the Senate this month, we should keep our eyes on the Senate in hopes that its decision on CEDAW will be consistent with its previous rejection of the Paycheck Fairness Act.