By DIANE S. WILLIAMS
Women suffrage in 1920 won the right to vote. The 1963 Equal Pay Act requires employers to pay women and men equal pay for equal work. We’ve come a long way, but working women still struggle for pay equity.
April 2 is the day women must work until to finally earn what a man earned in 2018. Women working full-time earn 80 cents for every dollar paid to a man — a figure that rose by less than a nickel since 2000.
For women of color it’s worse. Black women must work until August 2 to earn what white men earned in 2018. Latinas earn just 55 cents for $1 paid to a white man. Only Asian women, who achieved pay equity in March, are closing the wage gap.
Women are half of New York City’s workforce and population, “yet we have been short-changed by the very economic system that flourishes because of our contributions,” said Laurie A. Cumbo, City Council Majority Leader.
- Collectively, New York City women earn $5.8 billion less each year than men.
- Women at city agencies earn less based on where they work.
- Women, more than men, suffer from excessive workloads and generally are underpaid, undervalued, and unappreciated.
- A lifetime of lower wages translates to poverty-level pensions that threaten homelessness.
- Letitia James, the state’s first woman Attorney General, wrote in a 2018 NYC Public Advocate’s report: “The average salary of women at the top 10 majority women city agencies is $10,000 less than the average salary of men…suggesting that NYC may value certain kinds of work over others.”
Unions continue to bring awareness to economic injustices and the issues that hit working families, women and children hardest — in their wallets. Carmen Charles, Local 420 president and Women’s Committee chair said, “The struggle for pay equity is fundamental to labor’s struggle for economic justice.”
“Unions must make the case for better pay for women and focus on the pay scales of agency titles, how they were created, why they are unfair, and what can be done to rebalance pay scales,” said Local 768 President Fitz Reid, whose membership is about 75 percent women. Women comprise more than 65 percent of DC 37’s membership.
Women who belong to unions are more likely to earn better wages. Unions address pay equity by:
- Negotiating for pay step plans that lead to higher wages;
- Offering education for career advancement;
- Protecting seniority rights; and
- Filing grievances to win higher wages for members based on duties, responsibilities, and experience.
“Women are standing up and empowering each other,” Charles said. “Together we can use our voices, our union, and our political strength to demand equal pay!”