A report yesterday erroneously said Eleanor Smeal lost a reelection bid as president of the National Organization for Women to Judy Goldsmith in 1982. Smeal was ineligible for reelection, having served the limit of two consecutive terms.
Eleanor Smeal, the combative president of the National Organization for Women, pledged yesterday that her group would "raise hell" with the Supreme Court and Congress to win acceptance of "comparable worth" pay for women. She also declared all-out war against a "bigotry" that she charged with threatening the "human rights gains of the past 30 years."
In her first speech since taking office, Smeal denounced a ruling by a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that overturned a federal judge's finding that had been hailed as a landmark victory for comparable worth. The lower court judge had ordered the state of Washington to give 15,000 female state workers substantial raises because they had been paid less than men with comparable skills and responsibilities.
"We're going to the Supreme Court," Smeal told an audience at the National Press Club. "If that court buys the line, then we're going to the Congress and raise so much hell they'll be compelled to change it. We simply won't accept a ruling that justifies injustice."
Gerald McEntee, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), which brought the suit, said yesterday that his union was preparing an appeal.
Spokesmen for the Reagan administration, which opposes the concept of comparable worth, celebrated the ruling. Clarence M. Pendleton Jr., chairman of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, who had derided comparable worth as a "Looney Tunes" idea, said he was "elated" with the panel's ruling.
"Yippie!" one Justice Department spokesman said, but the department later issued a formal response. "We are certainly pleased with the outcome of the case," the statement said. "It is consistent with another case decided earlier. They the judges are sending a very clear message. 'This is the way we are going to rule on these cases, so don't send them up.' "
The 9th Circuit last year rejected a comparable worth suit by state nurses and the Supreme Court refused to hear the case.
Jerry Jasinowski, executive vice president of the National Association of Manufacturers, which represents more than 13,000 companies, voiced the business view.
"There is now no court that says comparable worth should be the law of the land," he said. "You cannot ignore the marketplace when deciding how much to pay an employe who fills a particular job."
Smeal called for a revolution "on several fronts simultaneously" so women can "break out of the ghetto of low wages that has been created for us one way or another." She contended that "right-wing bigotry" was threatening "the gains of the last 30 years" in a number of areas, including civil rights, birth control and abortion.
"We must recognize bigotry when it raises its ugly head," she said. "We must wrap it around the neck of the right wing as we fight for liberty and justice for all. We don't take our right-wing fascist opponents seriously enough."
Asked if she would name any she considered to be "fascist reactionaries," she responded, "The [Richard A.] Vigueries, the [Sen. Jesse] Helmses, the [Sen. Orrin G.] Hatches, the [Paul M.] Weyriches all have a nice little game going. When they stop calling us leftists and communists and pinkos, I'll stop calling them fascists."
Viguerie is a conservative fund-raiser, Weyrich a conservative political activist.
Smeal was president of NOW, a women's rights organization, for five years until she was defeated in 1982 by Judy Goldsmith. She won the position back last July after a bitter contest with Goldsmith.