After this is over: the wage equality ordinance

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Gadfly’s “vision” has been radically restricted lately.

Restricted to immediate needs: how to get food, how to get toilet paper, how to manage till the latest “all clear” forecast by the media punditry.

He feels like he’s always looking at his feet.

“It feels like our life is on hold,” as a follower just wrote him.

But Gadfly is going to try to keep some focus on what to do “after this is over.”

In fact, he has written to some of you about one specific project.

What does Gadfly want to do after this is over?

Get a haircut.

He was part of that little recognized “generation” of teens in the 1950s who believed that the key to getting dates was good hair, along with the sweet ’49 Mercury James Dean drove in Rebel without a Cause.

Mercury 1

And he’s gotten a haircut every two weeks since.

Another thing that Gadfly looks forward to after this is over is resumption of discussion of Councilman Callahan’s wage equality ordinance.

Wage Equality Memo (1)

Watching this commercial this morning has Gadfly looking eagerly forward to the resolution of the needless gnarls in the discussion that preceded our virus-break and the enactment of a very valuable ordinance.

Let’s get it done!

You may have noticed that Gadfly is of an age in which he easily, unconsciously, gratuitously slips into the past.

Negron to Callahan: “You have to shut up, ok?”

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Wage Equality Memo (1)

Final 15 minutes of the February 25 Human Resources Committee meeting
Councilwoman Negron quote at min. 9:50

Councilwoman Negron raised her voice, and raised her voice to a man. We know how certain people feel about that.

Councilwoman Negron told Councilman Callahan to shut up. In public. At a meeting. In front of one spectator (the delicately eared Gadfly larva). And a tv audience. Forever archived.

That’s not good. Not good at all. That’s bad, in fact. Bad. That is not proper behavior for a Councilperson at a Council meeting. Councilwoman Negron should not have said that. Gadfly will not defend it. Gadfly must condemn it. Councilpeople should not ever talk to other Councilpeople that way. Not ever.

Council-watchers are well aware that Councilors Negron and Callahan have a “history” that might well have fueled the Councilwoman’s outburst. But that is no excuse. In the past she has occasionally walked away from the Head Table in quiet but unmistakably pointed rejection of her colleague. Not this time.

We live in a soundbite culture. You can’t deny that “You have to shut up, ok?” was the soundbite of the night, the headline if the traditional news outlets had covered the meeting, the topic of conversation around water-coolers and in the blogverse the following day.

But instead of starting with the “obvious,” Gadfly has taken five or six posts and five or six days to get to it. Why?

Focusing on that simple soundbite is much too simplistic a response to the interesting and revelatory interpersonal gender dynamics at the meeting. So Gadfly has asked you to walk slowly through the meeting up to the last 15 minutes in the video above. Which he now encourages you to watch.

Listen to the Councilwoman’s calm voice in the beginning of the video selection supporting the motion to postpone, laying out reasons for needing “more time” to have a “beautiful” ordinance that the Councilman proposed. No sign of anger.

Listen to the Councilwoman’s engaging voice using potential examples from a Bethlehem business and real examples from her own life to highlight problems with the current ordinance and to justify postponement so that they can be resolved (4:03). No sign of anger.

Listen to the Councilwoman’s temperature begin to rise when she responds to the Councilman’s rather condescending plan — totally and inexcusably misreading her position, as if he were not listening to her at all — to have women’s groups lobby her to vote for an ordinance she is already in favor of: “I don’t need to talk with anybody else, I want to pass this, I like it, I just need to be sure that it’s right” (8:20).

Listen to the Councilman’s  — in Gadfly’s opinion — totally off-point response to her, returning immediately in a kind of non-sequitur to one of his repeated attack points about the fault of the Councilwomen in not communicating with him, ending with his oft-repeated line “I’m good with it [the ordinance proposal] as it is written,” which indicates he is not at all swayed by the new ideas that have been raised (9:05).

So what set the Councilwoman off?

Let’s look beyond the sensational soundbite.

Let’s look first at the immediate context of that line.

It comes at the end of this passage:

“So if you want to respect a woman in the City of Bethlehem start with your two colleagues. Please, respect what we are trying to tell you, and don’t be talking down to us. ‘You didn’t call me, you didn’t . . .’ It’s your ordinance, and we want to pass it. No, you listen to me, because you are used to speak on top of us. And I am tired, I’m not going to let you. You have to shut up, ok? Respect us.” (9:50)

What’s the key word in the passage? Respect. The Councilwoman feels lack of respect. And she blows!

There’s a devastating irony here. Think about it. The male creator of this ordinance to respect the equality of women, and who says incredibly pious things about helping women, especially minority women, and who stresses the urgency to do so as a reason to pass the ordinance as is and immediately on to the full body of City Council, feels himself opposed by the three women on Council and charged with lack of respect by one of them, while implying that they — the females — might be stalling an ordinance designed to address an abuse of females and an abuse they themselves have experienced.

Deargod — as they say, you couldn’t make this up!

Is there any truth to the lack of respect charge?

Gadfly thinks there is.

Without excusing Councilwoman Negron’s behavior, Gadfly understands it.

The Councilman devalues women’s ideas (about the enforcement hole in the ordinance), denies women’s experience (about salary sharing, about needing a lawyer to face a judge), continually blames women for the failure of the relationship (not coming to the meeting prepared), ignores their offer to help (with investigating enforcement options), finds them incomprehensible (almost literally saying, “what is your problem?”). He calls the enforcement question about his proposal a “minor tidbit,” infers “stalling tactics,” suggests that someone didn’t do her homework, considers the major objection to his proposal “made up.”

In an alternate universe, “minor tidbit” for the serious and clearly articulated enforcement problem would have been the soundbite of the night.

Toward the very end of the evening, a cordial Councilwoman Crampsie Smith breaks in to a verbal gnarl between the Councilman and the two committee members to offer him clarification and to offer him help: “Bryan, I think what we talked about is that the other cities have the Human Relations Commission, we don’t. . . . I can help you with this, we can see what other avenues there are. . . . I know a lot of female attorneys that are real advocates for women, maybe they would be able to do something pro bono. There are some things we could check out. Does that sound good?”

But the Councilwoman’s cordial offer of help is ignored with a brush-offing “Sure, sure.” And the Councilman immediately turns instead to a man, the Solicitor, for advice: “Mr. Spirk, do you have any suggestions for a solution to this as far as getting any women that have a complaint against an employer, I mean, what would you suggest?” (14:55)

Gadfly gets the lack of respect.

Gadfly would like to say that Councilman Callahan explained to him the serious reason that he checks his cell phone at Council meetings, a practice Gadfly called attention to two meetings back.

A Robert’s rule to limit debate would have been welcome

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Question: What according to Robert’s Rules should follow a motion to postpone?(Councilwoman Van Wirt made a motion to table, but Solicitor Spirk recognized that what she meant was a motion to postpone.)

Answer: Nothing.

Nothing, that is, except set a date for reconsideration and everybody get out of Dodge.

Nothing, that is, except “limited debate” on “whether the postponement is appropriate.” Debate should be “restricted to the pros and cons of postponement, and to what time the question should be postponed.” “Debate may not go into the merits of the main motion.” (Quotes from Gadfly editions of Robert’s Rules)

What happened after the motion to table/postpone at the Human Resources committee meeting on the wage equality ordinance February 25?

The discussion continued, wandering to and fro over already well trodden ground for another 15 minutes — and ended up regrettable.

In Gadfly’s (admittedly non-expert) opinion, a chair familiar with Robert’s Rules should have “limited debate” to agreement on a date to meet again and called it a day. Committee members familiar with Robert’s Rules could have called for the same with Robert’s Rules as authority.

What about Solicitor Spirk, you ask?

Gadfly is not familiar with the protocol in such circumstances. He is not sure that it is the place for the Solicitor to intervene uninvited. He is not sure the Solicitor plays umpire if he’s not asked to.

If he can intervene to make a call, however, Mr. Spirk probably decided that there was just enough talk about the appropriateness of postponement sprinkled throughout this period for discussion to continue. When Councilman Callahan finally did address the Solicitor after the formal vote on postponement was taken in yet another attempt to keep discussion going, Mr. Spirk definitely indicated that the vote to postpone ended discussion, and the meeting was finally adjourned.

Gadfly is reminded of his recent “modest proposal” that every Council member be required to attend a training seminar in Robert’s Rules of Order every year.

If discussion had ended soon after Councilwoman Van Wirt’s motion to postpone, we might have been saved much unpleasantness.

The case for postponement is that Councilwoman Negron asked for further research by Solicitor Spirk and Councilwoman Van Wirt wants to do research on adding a “salary sharing” component. Both want Councilman Callahan to address the enforcement issue.

The case against postponement is that the ordinance is fine as is, it is exactly the same as ordinances successfully adopted in other cities, there has been plenty of time for Councilwomen Negron and Van Wirt to bring amendments for discussion now, and that changes can be made before the ordinance reaches Council and even at Council.

Next.

Enforcement concerns a “minor tidbit” and possibly a “stalling” tactic

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Wage Equality Memo (1)

A few posts ago, Gadfly asked you to watch a long — 30 minutes — section of the February 25 Human Resources committee meeting on Councilman Callahan’s proposed wage equality ordinance.

The reason: that final half-hour of the meeting does not break up easily into discrete chunks, and you can’t really understand it unless you hear the whole sequence and know the whole context.

There is a kind of rhythm, a kind of crescendo movement that you have to experience to understand what Gadfly sees as the significance of this section of the meeting as part of his goal to help you understand our elected officials better so that you can be the most informed voter you can be.

This section of the meeting has been talked about and written about, and Gadfly feels that it is susceptible to some distortion if sound bites are lifted out of context. Gadfly hopes you did listen to the whole 30-minute section or will return to do so.

For now he’s going to try to explain what he meant in a previous post by seeing in this section “a kind of rhythm, a kind of crescendo movement.”

In Gadfly’s view, Councilman Callahan exhibits a kind of repetitive stubbornness in that last half-hour of the meeting that escalates tension among committee members to a point that produces some generally regrettable behavior.

See if you agree.

Here is the first 11 minutes of that 30-minute stretch. It begins with Councilman Callahan, at the request of Councilwoman Van Wirt, seeking input from Councilwoman Crampsie Smith and ends with a motion by Councilwoman Van Wirt to table (later modified to postpone) action on the proposal:

The repetitive movement Gadfly sees is each Councilwoman making some suggestion or comment and, in response, Chair Callahan basically repeating his same unbudging position, as if not deeply listening to or understanding the women, creating a kind of pressure that was bound to blow.

1) mins 0 – 2:30: Councilwoman Crampsie Smith, in a very calm voice, indicates her support for the ordinance but focuses on the question of enforcement and wonders if it is appropriate to table the proposal for two weeks or so and come back and “wrap our heads” around the enforcement aspect, offering suggestions to see what other cities are doing or to discuss options again with the City. Councilman Callahan’s answer is not directed to the enforcement issue at all but to aspects of his proposal that will insure the business community knows about the ordinance: letters along with business licenses, a one-year delay, information on the city web site, information in the city newsletter.

2) mins 2:30 – 4:00: Councilwoman Negron, in a very calm voice, indicates her support for the “wise” suggestion to table by Councilwoman Crampsie Smith, to give time to benefit by Solicitor Spirk’s research on her enforcement suggestion, to give Councilwoman Van Wirt time to do research on “salary sharing,” and come back and pass the ordinance. Councilman Callahan wonders if you are not comfortable with some “minor tidbit” (a particularly incendiary phrase!) whether they just can’t pass it through to Council as a whole, giving a whole month for additions to be done. Councilman Callahan does not register a sense of the gravity of the concerns and exhibits only a desire to pass the ordinance through to Council.

3) mins 4:00 –  9:00: Councilwoman Van Wirt, with clarity and firmness, indicates that Councilman Callahan is “underestimating” the “gating event” — the aggrieved women marshaling resources and getting a lawyer, describing her own experience and a $5000 cost. She points out the Human Rights Commissions that other cities have and we don’t, the support of the three women on Council for a short delay, and the need to “get it right.” Councilman Callahan doesn’t see the need to hire a layer for that kind of money, indicates violators would probably be doing this with multiple women (relevance?), and that he wants to get the ordinance to full Council where perhaps it would be tabled. He focuses on the ample time before it comes to Council to consider amendments, indicates everybody had ample time to bring amendments to this meeting and raises the notion of “stalling” without direct accusation (again incendiary!). Councilman Callahan then raises the possibility of throwing the enforcement back to our Human Relations Commission or our Human Resources department — both ideas effectively discounted by the other Councilors.

4) min 9:00 – 9:50: Councilwoman Crampsie Smith, in calm voice, suggests exploring such options as Legal Aid, women’s groups, a Washington Human Rights campaign. Councilman Callahan does not respond to or acknowledge the Councilwoman’s points at all.

5) min 9:50 – 11:15:  instead, Councilman Callahan addresses Councilwoman Van Wirt about the idea of drafting more citizen volunteers and then, returning to his main desire, asking her again for amendments now.

6) min 11:15: Chair Callahan moves toward calling for a vote on the proposed ordinance, but Councilwoman Van Wirt beats him to it with a motion to table (later amended to a motion to postpone), seconded by Councilwoman Negron.

We’ll stop our analysis right here for now.

Do you see the troubling rhythm to the discussion that Gadfly does? More on that later.

For now, grab your well worn copy of Robert’s Rules.

What should follow a motion to table or a motion to postpone (which Solicitor Spirk sees was truly Councilwoman Van Wirt’s intent)? C’mon, look it up.

Gadfly thinks what should have happened at this moment didn’t happen — and thus the agony of the rest of the meeting.

Next time.

Is the enforcement concern with the proposed wage equality ordinance legitimate?

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If there is only a fine, and it requires the aggrieved individual to pay for and initiate the prosecution, something seems missing.
John Rothschild

Forcing people into magistrates’ courts greatly increases the initiative required by the employee and makes it more difficult for them to pursue justice. . . . Legislation that is not coupled with meaningful implementation is generally ineffective and
tends to be discriminatory.

Peter Crownfield

Wage Equality Memo (1)

On the surface, Councilman Callahan’s proposed wage equality ordinance is a no-brainer.

The basic idea is that this ordinance (which is gaining nationwide acceptance) hopes to free women from the spiraling financial trap of beginning their work careers at a low salary while they progress in their careers. Employers will not be able to ask a female applicant her past salary and low-ball her salary-wise on the new job.

But it seems that in other cities the enforcement element of a wage equity ordinance aimed at protecting women from this kind of financial exploitation has been handled by a City Human Rights Commission. In Bethlehem, however, our Human Rights Commission (one of our volunteer ABC’s) has previously indicated its inability to handle a projected number of cases that will arise from this ordinance.

Thus, Councilman Callahan, after discussion with the City administration and the Solicitors, has modified what’s done in the legislation in other places to make the magistrate court the locus of enforcement here. The aggrieved employee would, on the basis of this ordinance, bring a case before a magistrate, one in which, Councilwoman Van Wirt avers (with the agreement of Solicitor Spirk), she would most likely need (or be best served) to retain a lawyer.

Councilman Callahan would like our HRC to handle enforcement as it does in other cities, but in their absence he is satisfied with magistrate enforcement, calling Councilwoman Van Wirt’s objection a “minor tidbit.”

Let’s think about this “minor tidbit.” It’s important.

A hypothetical situation:

You are a young woman working at an entry-level position at a minimal salary. You have gained work experience, you have gained more education or training, you have gained confidence in your ability, you have good references — you apply for a job that would be a “step up” in a career path. You know that Bethlehem has an ordinance that forbids a prospective new employer to ask your current salary. In compliance with the law, there is no such “ask” on the employment application forms. But in an interview, you are unexpectedly asked that question. What do you do? Do you risk blowing the interview by “calling” the interviewer on his or her illegal activity? Suppose the interviewer apologizes — do you go on with the interview? Or do you wait and see what happens? If you get a job offer, you may be glad to get it, even though the salary might seem low to you, and you just swallow the illegality. If you don’t get a job offer, you might be angry enough to “stick it” to the employer or reluctant to “waste time” getting your pound of flesh through the legal system.

Role play. You might envision the situation options differently. Gadfly might not have outlined the variables exhaustively or as you see them.

So suppose you do want justice. What happens then? Role play again.

Would you go yourself to a magistrate, or would you look for a lawyer to represent you? What would be the variables, the criteria in such a decision? Do you even know who your magistrate is or where he or she is located? Do you have personal confidence to make your claim in court before a judge, with the employer and (probably for sure) the lawyer’s attorney challenging you? Do you have familiarity with the court system? Have you ever brought a case or ever been in court? How are your language skills? What would your evidence be? Suppose the employer said it didn’t happen? Or that you mentioned salary in a way that opened the door to the question? Do you have money to hire a lawyer? Have you ever hired a lawyer? Would you even know about how to find a lawyer, and a lawyer specializing in wage issues? What would you feel you would get out of going to court — a moral victory? striking a “Me too” kind of blow for the cause of women?

As always, as followers know, Gadfly is always open to correction and criticism (and even a disciplinary slap upside the head as administered recently by the Parkers),

but he has to say,

that the weak enforcement objection to the proposed ordinance

is also

to him

a no-brainer.

Which makes the chair’s attitude at the February 25 Human Resources committee meeting all that much more puzzling.

Going there again next.

The wage equality ordinance: why not do it right to start with?

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Gadfly,

The initiative certainly has merit. The question is, does Councilman Callahan want to get the ordinance right for Bethlehem, or just get anything passed out of political expediency?

The three women on City Council all attended. Councilwomen Negron and Van Wirt serve on the committee and Councilwoman Crampsie Smith was present.

Each had quite valid questions, comments, and suggestions, yet the Councilman seemed more concerned about getting his proposed ordinance out of committee than addressing any concerns raised.

Why not do it right to start with?

Dana Grubb

Gadfly trying to figure out the Councilman

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This ordinance is designed to combat widespread gender-based wage inequalities by prohibiting employer inquiries into prospective employee wage histories, as well as employer reliance on such wage histories for determining compensation.
Councilman Callahan, December 13, 2019.

Wage Equality Memo (1)

It’s time for some analysis of the personal and interpersonal dynamics of the February 25 Human Resources committee meeting discussing Councilman Callahan’s wage equality ordinance on which we have spent 5 posts so far.

By a 1-2 vote (Councilwomen Negron and Van Wirt nay), the committee postponed further discussion and vote on Councilman Callahan’s proposed legislation. In reporting on the meeting to Council March 3, chairperson Callahan described the February 25 discussion in his committee as “spirited.”

Gadfly has now laid out for you the entire one-hour February 25 meeting, last time asking you to view the last half-hour in one chunk.

One could call the discussion “spirited,” but in Gadfly’s mind that adjective usually has a positive connotation. Frankly, the word that comes to Gadfly’s mind for this Human Resources committee meeting is “dysfunction.”

Let’s start with analysis of the core statement of Councilman Callahan’s position that Gadfly isolated for you a few posts back:

“This is a good ordinance. It’s the same ordinance that all the cities, all the major cities are doing. I believe that 27 states that are now looking in to it. And I kind of find it hard to believe in the City of Bethlehem that it’s good for all these other places, but it’s not good for us. If there’s some other amendment that you’d like to add, you know, throw it out there. I mean we had discussion about a month ago, and I think that the meeting was scheduled about 3 weeks ago. So we knew this meeting was coming, we knew what the topic was. The ordinance was sent to us many weeks ago. And instead of stalling it or trying to table it, I think it’s that important of an ordinance for the women of the City of Bethlehem. I want to move it forward with a positive vote, and if you don’t want it, I understand it, then send it to full Council with a negative recommendation and let full Council listen to it.”

“This is a good ordinance.”

  • Yes, everybody agreed, even Councilwoman Grace Crampsie Smith, not on the committee but who was sitting in at the Head Table. But the women on Council are seeing a disadvantage to women in the workforce in the ordinance as proposed. That ought to mean something. In Gadfly’s opinion, Councilman Callahan is mistaking disagreement on a key part of the ordinance as opposition to the ordinance as a whole.

“It’s the same ordinance that all the cities, all the major cities are doing.”

  • No, apparently not — here’s the big rub in Gadfly’s opinion. Gadfly would say Councilman Callahan is mistaken here. It seems the proposed Bethlehem ordinance meaningfully differs from the others in that here the complaint would be uniquely handled by a magistrate whereas in other cities it is handled by a city Human Relations Commission. (Our HRC declined involvement.) Councilman Callahan doesn’t see this difference as a problem; the Councilwomen do. Gadfly understands where the women are coming from on this key point. And will talk more about it later.

“I believe that 27 states that are now looking in to it. And I kind of find it hard to believe in the City of Bethlehem that it’s good for all these other places, but it’s not good for us.”

  • Nobody said or even implied that the ordinance was not good for us. Au contraire. What the Councilwomen said was that the enforcement section of the ordinance needed work. In Gadfly’s opinion, Councilman Callahan misses the point of discussion by the Councilwomen.

“If there’s some other amendment that you’d like to add, you know, throw it out there. I mean we had discussion about a month ago, and I think that the meeting was scheduled about 3 weeks ago. So we knew this meeting was coming, we knew what the topic was. The ordinance was sent to us many weeks ago.”

  • Councilwoman Van Wirt says she made her feelings about problems with the proposed ordinance known to Councilman Callahan back as far as the beginning of January. Councilwoman Van Wirt wanted Councilman Callahan to initiate personal discussion with her about those problems before bringing the ordinance to the committee and a probable vote there. Councilman Callahan did not initiate such personal discussion, felt the ordinance was fine as is, and apparently expected Councilwoman Van Wirt to come to the meeting with specific amendments if she so desired. Councilwoman Van Wirt wasn’t ready to propose amendments at the meeting; Councilman Callahan felt there was ample time to do so, and he wanted to move on. Gadfly sighs over this point of contention. What happened to “communication”?

“And instead of stalling it or trying to table it, I think it’s that important of an ordinance for the women of the City of Bethlehem.”

  • The Councilwomen verbally championed the ordinance at the meeting. The veiled charge of stalling or tabling the ordinance, implying a wilful obstructionist motive, seems unfair, totally without basis to Gadfly. Councilwoman Negron has a suggestion requiring investigation by the Solicitor, a suggestion that might answer the enforcement concern raised by Councilwoman Van Wirt. Councilwoman Van Wirt wants to add an amendment that will even further enhance the protection for the employee this ordinance is designed to provide. They both want the ordinance to go forward, just not now. There is no urgent need for immediate action that Gadfly can discern. Stalling, if you will pardon the pun, didn’t seem on that table. Gadfly sees no reason for Councilman Callahan to object to a reasonable delay.

“I want to move it forward with a positive vote, and if you don’t want it, I understand it, then send it to full Council with a negative recommendation and let full Council listen to it.”

  • This climactic point relates to bullet #4 and your conception of the function of a committee relative to the full body of an organization. The way Gadfly sees it, yes, the full body surely has full and final authority and can reverse the recommending voice of a committee. But Gadfly sees the work of the committee as to present the product of its full deliberation and not just “pass through” a proposed ordinance. Gadfly doesn’t understand Councilman Callahan’s reasoning. If there are changes and amendments to be heard, and if there is no urgent need for a decision, why is Councilman Callahan in such a hurry to get the issue in front of Council? Gadfly is not good at thinking “politically.” Is there some benefit to Councilman Callahan if the proposed ordinance goes to full Council as “his” proposal, even if with a negative vote? Is there some advantage to Councilman Callahan in having his basic proposal as well as any amendments “heard” in front of the three men and one woman not on the committee? Gadfly simply does not get Councilman Callahan’s almost obsessive impatience for a vote, even if negative. And is willing to be enlightened. Or slapped upside the head.

Gadfly has a hard time figuring out the Councilman here.

And he thinks the others did too. Councilman Callahan exhibits a kind of repetitive stubbornness in that last half-hour of the meeting to which Gadfly asked you to listen that, in Gadfly’s opinion, escalates tension among committee members to a point that produces some generally regrettable behavior.

Is that the way you saw it? Gadfly invites your perspective. More discussion of the interactions in this later part of the meeting coming.

to be continued . . .