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US Chamber of Commerce Apologizes, But Don’t Be Fooled

After getting roundly whacked by basically the entire internet, the US Chamber has officially apologized for its blog post yesterday that suggested women seeking equal pay have a “fetish for money” and suggested women should “choose the right partner at home.” But don’t let it fool you: the US Chamber has for decades advocated in private the very sentiments posted to its public blog yesterday. We just got a look behind the curtain.

Chamber COO David Chavern wrote on the Chamber’s blog tonight:

Yesterday, Brad Peck posted a piece on ChamberPost about the wage gap between men and women. There is a lot that I don’t like about the piece. It is simplistic and misguided. Even worse, I find it very, very old fashioned. “Women still face challenges at work because of their own work-life choices”, blah, blah, blah. It is an argument from the 1960’s.

The trouble that it is an argument that doesn’t explain a whole bunch of bad things. Why, for example, does the number of Fortune 500 women CEO’s and senior managers seem to have topped out? That is a truth that impacts a whole bunch of women who have made a wide variety of work-life choices. It certainly isn’t an outcome one would predict if all companies were really the “equal opportunity” (let alone “equal outcome”) workplaces that Brad implies that they are. The “glass ceiling” is real and simply blaming it on women’s work-life choices is ridiculous.

There is also a lot of good evidence that women make great entrepreneurs. Shouldn’t that tell us something? Why is it that a large number of large, institutional environments don’t work for women — but ones they create for themselves do?

The bottom line is that I found Brad’s post to be both wrong and wrong-headed. Luckily, as the COO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce my opinion on these matters counts a lot more than his does when it comes to Chamber policy and operations.

For the record, here was the also insufficient backtracking in an update from Peck on his original post:

Update: The above post has been interpreted many different ways, few of which were intended. It is the belief of both the U.S. Chamber and I that women should have equal employment opportunity. In the above I was attempting, rather poorly, to point out that using the wage gap as the only measure of full equality provides an incomplete picture. The post was unclear in its message and I would like to apologize to those for whom it has caused offense. There was no intent to dismiss the challenges women face in the economy or diminish their substantial contributions.

Note: in this original “apology,” Peck says that the Chamber believes in “equal employment opportunity,” just not in “equal pay.” But neither blogger Peck’s nor COO Chavern’s “apologies” can explain away the Chamber’s not-so-secret past of opposing equality for women.

I have a feeling that Brad Peck will be dismissed, fired, or decide to go spend more time with his family. That shouldn’t happen. Punishing Peck for his post would allow the Chamber to erroneously claim that its culture, its politics, and indeed, its very core, doesn’t represent the intent of Peck’s post. Indeed, I’d argue that Peck’s argument that women wanting equal pay have a “fetish for money” and that they should “choose the right partner at home” is the very essence of the Chamber’s ideology. From my original post on the Chamber’s hideous views of women:

  • 1977: US Chamber opposes amendment to Civil Rights Act that would ban discrimination against pregnant women.
  • 1978: US Chamber says pregnancy is a “voluntary” condition in its opposition to Pregnancy Discrimination Act.
  • 1987: Family Medical Leave Act “sets a dangerous precedent,” according to the US Chamber.
  • 1998: US Chamber opposes Equal Pay Act because “work experience does tend to create greater wage gaps.”
  • 2007: US Chamber opposes Lilly Ledbetter’s court case for equal pay because “tear-stained testimony” prejudices against a defendant. Opposed the bill in Congress to right the wrongs against Ledbetter in 2008 and 2009 as well.
  • 2007: Chamber official pledges “all out war” against Family Medical Leave Act, and in 2010 made it a “priority” to fight in Congress.
  • Monday: US Chamber again cites pregnancy as a “voluntary choice.”

You can’t try to pin this on an overzealous blogger. Peck just wrote in public what the Chamber has thought, believed, and lobbied for decades: doing nothing to help women who find themselves earning far less in pay, promotions, and respect than their male colleagues.

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Michael Whitney

Michael Whitney

My name is Michael Whitney. I'm a progressive online organizer working with FDL Action. Rush Limbaugh called me "clueless" once. He went into rehab two days later.