Equal Pay for Work of Equal Value
by Citizen Action/Illinois Policy Council member Bea Lumpkin:
March is Women’s History Month, dedicated to advancing women’s equality. So why aren’t we smiling? Maybe it’s because women are averaging only 77 cents to every $1.00 of men’s average pay. And as bad as the gender gap is in general, the gap is worse for women of color. African American women average only 64 cents and Latina women only 52 cents to every $1.00 of men’s average pay (AFSCME.org).
Years back we were making some progress in closing the gender gap. The pay gap was 59 cents in 1963 when the Equal Pay Act was signed in 1963. By 2003, women’s pay compared to men’s rose to 77 cents to the dollar. The improvement was very slow, less than half a cent a year. Slow as that is, it’s better than what happened since 2005; no progress at all. Women’s average pay is still only 77 cents to the dollar of men’s average pay.
In President Obama’s 2014 State of the Union address he recognized the need for equal pay. Obama's proposal to raise the minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $10.10 would shrink the gender wage gap by nearly 5 percent, since women make up 60% of minimum wage workers. But much more is needed. Congress needs to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act (S.84, H.R.377) and the Fair Pay Act (S.168, H.R.438) to close loopholes in current laws and protect women’s rights to fight for equal pay.
On April 8th we have an opportunity to join the fight for Equal Pay. In Chicago, Equal Pay supporters will rally at 12 noon, Tuesday, April 8th, 2014 in Daley Plaza. To the credit of the National Committee on Pay Equity, they are also demanding equal pay for minorities. I strongly agree; equal pay for all is what we are fighting for.
Forty organizations are supporting the Rally under the slogan “Equal Work Deserves Equal Wages.” The UN has proclaimed Equal Pay Day but the date will vary from country to country. For the US, April 8th, 2014, is the day when a woman’s wage from January 1, 2013 finally catches up to an average man’s wage for January 1, 2013 to December 31, 2013. April 8th is 99 days into the New Year. Inequality has chopped off 99 day’s pay from the average woman’s wages.
I am not claiming that the average man is paid a just wage for his work. Far from it. But the 99-day pay difference in the average women’s annual pay and men’s annual pay is extra exploitation. Nor is the gender-based difference in pay benefiting the working man.
Did you ever wonder where that extra 99 days’ pay goes, the pay that women have worked for but do not get? It does not go to the working man; 60% of male workers have suffered a drop in wages when adjusted for inflation (Walter Krugman, NY Times 3-17-14). My guess is that the 99 days unpaid female labor and similar amounts extracted from workers of color go to the small super-wealthy fraction of the 1%.
I cannot end this post on equal pay without mentioning a high point of women’s history, March 8th, International Women’s Day. The Day had its start in the 1909-1910 strike of 20,000 women shirtwaist factory workers, right here in our own country. This year, in every European country and most of the rest of the world, millions of people marched on March 8th for Equal Rights for Women. But not here, not in the United States. Maybe that’s why women in Europe are 7 cents closer to ending the gender pay gap than we are here.