By Mackenzie Yoffe Morris
In April, the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, an organization advocating for the interests of predatory capitalists against workers’ rights, filed a federal lawsuit against the City of Philadelphia to stop the implementation of a wage equity law passed in January. The law, to take effect May 23, would ban company requests for workers’ salary history, in an effort to prevent the cycle of underpaying women workers from continuing on this basis. The Chamber is arguing that this, somehow, infringes on the “free speech rights” of businesses. This move is par for the course when it comes to the interests of the capitalist ruling class in their struggle against even minor advances for workers. This is because capitalist wage labor is nothing more than the extraction of surplus value (the value of what workers produce above and beyond what they are paid for, because they are deliberately underpaid) so a minority can get rich at their expense. Meanwhile, the bosses provide no socially useful function or notable labor at all, beyond the management of their own exploitative enterprises.
The gender pay gap, in other words the economic super-exploitation of women workers, is ultimately not something that can be legislated away. It is a function of the fundamentally patriarchal structure of capitalism. Capital needs the exploitable labor-power of workers to be reproduced generationally, which means it relies on women workers’ unpaid labor of birthing and raising children and caring for other workers so they can work for the bosses. Ideological and repressive measures enforce the sexual division of labor, undervaluing women’s reproductive, domestic and sexual labor, even for those unable to bear children. Women are kept underpaid in relation to men not just because capitalists can use the ideological justification of their inferiority to save money, but also to put pressure on them to rely on men for greater financial stability. In addition to their own work, women are expected to provide reproductive labor within the nuclear family—that is, working overtime to take care of men workers and perhaps bearing children that can themselves be exploited for their labor-power. Those who resist this arrangement, with its expectations of heterosexuality, stability of gendered roles, and coercive control over childbirth, are also punished in various ways.
In the end, the capitalist class sees workers as nothing more than their labor-power. This is their economic imperative. They literally cannot afford to see the workers they exploit as people with legitimate needs—their needs matter only insofar as it affects their ability to efficiently carry out exploitable labor processes. The capitalists can sustain economic growth only through a strictly selfish view, not of how workers can be satisfied with their conditions, but how they can be exploited to the greatest extent possible while still able to complete labor processes. Those who are not, whose disabilities of body or mind complicate labor processes, are subject to their own specific oppression on the economic, repressive, and ideological levels. Additionally, many disabilities, particularly those designated as psychiatric, are associated with misogynist stereotypes of what is feminine. Both disabled oppression and women’s oppression compound each other significantly. The oppression of racialized nationalities and peoples often plays a crucial role as well, subjecting workers of color to super-exploitation and genocidal terror to maintain the supremacy of certain colonial imperialist powers, principally the United States. These powers suppress the self-determination of their colonized subjects whose land, labor and resources they have plundered. The only solution to these problems is the revolutionary implementation of an entirely new system, socialism, and the disestablishment of the entire capitalist order.