Despite all the serious implementation problems enumerated in Chapter 3, the most fundamental weakness of comparable worth in Minnesota lies not in shifting lines and the like, but in arbitrary job evaluation systems unanchored to labor market signals. The very presentation of female and male lines with points on one axis and pay on the other suggests more solidity to the outcomes of job evaluation than ever exists in fact. To see how tenuous the figures are, one must probe beneath the seemingly objective “total points” for a job on a graph and focus on the political process and subjective criteria that produce the total.
The Department of Employee Relations (DOER) guide for local government implementation takes the standard position that job evaluation “measures job duties against objective criteria such as skill, effort, responsibility, and working conditions.” But if the criteria are objective, phrases like “such as” will not do. We need to know what the criteria are and how they should be weighed and measured. Instead of providing such standards, the DOER guidebook provides a list of sixty-six “possible” criteria and assures its readers that the list is not “exhaustive.” Some of the suggested factors clearly overlap, for example, “work environment” and “working conditions.” To make the whole conceptual mess complete, the guidebook tells local officials that, though the criteria are objective, they can decide for themselves “what they value most” and “pay accordingly.”