Women earn less, but enjoy jobs moreMaybe...


Women earn less, but enjoy jobs more

Maybe money doesn't buy happiness.

Although women earn about 75 percent of what men earn, they are happier on their jobs, a survey has found.

NDP Group Inc. surveyed 2,500 people and found that four of 10 women had very high job satisfaction ratings. Three of 10 men reported being as happy.

Some Baltimore women added caveats, however.

Patricia Garrity, a Willse & Associates staffer who is president of the Baltimore-based Executive Women's Network, said the women she knows do "tend to enjoy their jobs better . . . but they are dissatisfied with inequities [in pay]."

She believes women are happier because they don't care as much about their jobs.

"There are exceptions . . . but men tend to dedicate a good part of their life to their careers," she said. "Women are better able to balance career and family."

Worker pay claims embroiled in politics

A political battle is brewing in Annapolis over what to do about workers who feel they are being cheated out of pay by employers.

In 1991, Maryland trimmed $1.5 million off its annual budget by laying off the Division of Labor and Industry staffers who investigated such workers' claims.

Since then, workers who weren't paid have had to swallow the loss or hire attorneys to fight their cases in court. (The U.S. Department of Labor hasn't been much help because federal law requires employers only to pay the minimum wage.)

Local attorneys known for representing the down-and-out started getting swamped with cries for help, says Winnie Borden, who heads the Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Association.

When the attorneys started investigating the calls, they found that the law was fuzzy and that the lawsuits threatened to eat up everything workers were owed.

So they asked state legislators to sponsor a bill that would make it easier for workers to take their claims to court -- clarifying the law and guaranteeing that employers who lost would have to pay the workers' attorneys fees.

But at a state Senate hearing this month, the state Chamber of Commerce balked at the proposal. They persuaded legislators to adopt amendments that would force workers to file with the state before suing and that eliminate the provision for mandatory attorney's fees.

l "We certainly feel people should have some recourse," says Chris Costello, a chamber lobbyist.

Employers want to return to the old system of having state employees investigate and settle the claims, he says. "We'd rather have the funding back."

I= Ms. Borden agrees that workers would benefit if the state

funded the investigation office again. But since there's no indication that will happen soon, she's trying to negotiate a compromise.

At Tuesday's House Committee on Economic Matters hearing, the lawyers plan to give up on the attorney's fees provision if workers don't have to file a claim with the state before suing, she said.

Union membership continues to drop

Continuing a 30-year decline, the proportion of working Americans who belong to unions dropped a third of a percentage point last year, to 15.8 percent, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has reported.

In all, 16.4 million workers belonged to unions last year, down nearly 200,000 members from last year and 1.3 million from 1983.

Maryland unions also suffered, says Ernie Grecco, president of the Metropolitan Baltimore Council of AFL-CIO Unions.

Although no one counts union membership by state, Mr. Grecco, who heads the largest umbrella organization for unions in Maryland, says membership dropped last year.

"We have less union members because of layoffs" and plant closings at longtime union employers, ranging from county and state government offices to Baltimore's A&P; Bakery, he said.

The unions are seeing a decline in dues, he said.

Although unions have lost several elections to organize new groups of workers, including warehouse workers at Joppa-based Merry-Go-Round Enterprises Inc., Mr. Grecco says the continuing decline in membership isn't a sign that unions are unpopular.

When the economy rebounds, so will unionism, he predicts.

"There are more and more reasons to join a union. Unionized workers make considerably more than nonunion workers," he notes.

The BLS has reported that union members continued to earn more than their nonmembers last year. The median earnings of union members was $547 per week last year, compared with $413 for non-members.

Layoffs, job burden top stress factors

Who suffers the most stress at work? One survey finds a surprising mix: those in telecommunications, financial services and nonprofit organizations.

Michigan-based Human Synergistics International says the biggest causes of stress are increased job responsibilities and layoffs.

Those who feel they don't get recognized for their good work, or have been passed over for a promotion, also rank high on the stressed-out list.

The company says the industries least stressful for workers are health care, education and chemical processing.

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