We can only say “it’s about time!” after learning that members of the U.S. women’s soccer team have filed a federal wage discrimination complaint against the United States Soccer Federation (USSF).
This complaint is 25 years overdue.
Since 1991, the team has accounted for three World Cup titles and four Olympic gold medals. Last year, more than 26 million viewers watched the women defeat Japan in the World Cup final — the most-watched soccer game in U.S. history.
The women play the same game, with the same rules, for the same employer, the USSF.
The numbers speak for themselves.
Both men and women play a minimum of 20 exhibition games each year. The women get $3,600 per game, with a bonus of $1,350 if they win. The men receive a minimum of $5,000 for each game played, and more if they tie or win. If the women win every exhibition game, they walk away with $99,000 – or less than the $100,000 men earn if they lose every game. And unlike the men, the women receive no additional compensation if they play more than 20 games.
Then there’s the World Cup. According to the complaint filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), women get $30,000 each for making the World Cup team, while men get $68,750.
The list goes on: per diem rates for men are $62.50 for domestic venues and $75 for international locales. Women receive $50 and $60, respectively.
All this, despite the fact that Women’s Team generated $17.7 million in the 2016 fiscal year, and U.S. Soccer’s own budget projections anticipate that the women will generate an additional $17.6 million in the 2017 fiscal year. That compares with an estimated $9 million from the men in 2017.
Of course, the lack of equal pay for equal work in this country isn’t limited to women’s sports teams. Women in 2014 made just 79 percent of what white men were paid. African-American women earned 63 cents on the dollar, and Latina women 54 cents.
California is one of a number of states trying to do something about the disparity. The Legislature just adopted the Fair Pay Act, which replaces a 1963 federal regulation prohibiting companies from paying men and women differently for “equal” work. Under the new law, which took effect in January, employers have to be able to prove they pay both genders equally for “substantially similar” work. The law makes it easier for workers to challenge the fairness of their pay and puts more of a burden on employers to justify pay differentials – as a matter of seniority or merit, for example.
The effects are already being seen. Salesforce.com Inc. spent $3 million last year to achieve parity among its workforce. That included raising the salaries of a few men, as well as a number of women.
The U.S. Soccer Federation has a lawsuit pending with the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team Players Association over a collective bargaining agreement and memorandum of understanding. The federation alleges that the memorandum is valid until December 31, 2016. The players union says the memorandum of understanding — adopted in 2013 after the collective bargaining agreement expired – can be amended at any time.
When that dispute arose, the federation called the women’s demand for equal pay “irrational.”
The federation said in a statement that it was “disappointed” by the U.S. team’s complaint. “We’ve been a world leader in women’s soccer and are proud of the commitment we’ve made to building the women’s game in the United States over the past 30 years,” the statement continued.
Ida Castro, who chaired the EEOC under presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, told USA Today that the women have a strong case. She believes it will be difficult for the USSF to justify the pay differential.
Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton tweeted their support for the women’s cause. So did Landon Donovan, former standout on the U.S. Men’s National Team. “#USWNT absolutely deserve to be treated fairly in all ways,” he wrote.
However it plays out, we commend the women of the U.S. Women’s National Team for taking a stand – a stand that seems to have struck a chord with the American public.