Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Closing the wage gap

Today, April 20, people across Colorado, and the nation, will observe Equal Pay Day 2010 - representing the point when women's wages finally catch up to men's wages from last year.

According to the most recent U.S. Census Bureau statistics, women who work in full-time, year-round jobs earn, on average, 77 cents to every $1 earned by men working in full-time, year-round jobs.

For women of color, the wage gap is even wider. In 2008, the earnings for African American women were 67.9 percent of men's earnings and Latinas" earnings were 58 percent of men's.

In Colorado, women's earnings generally exceed the national average by a penny or so. But this is no great cause for celebration - especially in these tough times when every penny counts. As those lost pennies add up, women and their families are being shortchanged thousands of dollars a year and hundreds of thousands of dollars over a lifetime.

Reaching pay equity means more now than ever before.

According to the Center for American Progress report, "A Woman's Nation Changes Everything," women are now the breadwinner or co-breadwinner in two-thirds of all American families. With more women in the workforce, and more families reliant upon women's paychecks to make ends meet, it's clear to see how all of us - women and men - have such a huge stake in eliminating the wage gap.

The good news is that there are pending state and federal actions that would positively impact the pay gap now.

In Colorado, we're working to establish a permanent state Pay Equity Commission. Nationally, we are hopeful for the Paycheck Fairness Act.

The statewide effort grows from the nonpartisan Colorado Pay Equity Commission, created in 2007. That Commission brought a diverse group of stakeholders together to analyze the pay gap and identify solutions. One of the key recommendations was to create a permanent Pay Equity Commission to further focus on the problem, monitor pay equity progress and work toward solutions in the state. It's anticipated that a proposal to do so will be introduced this year.

Nationally, women were earning a mere 59 cents for every $1 a man earned when the Equal Pay Act was passed in 1963. Enforcement of the Equal Pay Act, and other civil rights laws, has helped narrow the wage gap, but huge disparities remained. In 2009, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act was signed into law, helping ensure that victims of discrimination have fair access to the courts. But we're not there yet.

Additional steps are needed.

One such step, the Paycheck Fairness Act, would close loopholes in the Equal Pay Act, enhance remedies, prohibit retaliation against workers who share wage information, and provide the government with new tools to monitor and address pay inequities. Passage is critical -- particularly in these economically perilous times when the self-sufficiency of women and their families is so at risk.

LaTerrell Bradford - a Denver woman who testified about pay inequity before the Colorado Legislature - calls equal pay a "non-negotiable." She was working as part of an all-female support team when a man was hired in the same job classification. Her supervisor - a woman - discovered that he was to earn much more than any of the women were presently earning. She went to human resources and the company agreed to pay everyone at that higher rate. "It would not have been fair," Bradford says, "nor legal, to sit next to him, do the exact same work and have him be paid more."

Are women workers really worth less than men? Any American of good conscience would say "no." We must ensure that our laws and workplace practices say "no" as well by ensuring family-flexible workplace policies, basic labor standards like paid sick days and, yes, an end to the wage gap.

Women and their families just cannot afford to wait any longer. We must tighten wage disparity laws now to ensure equity for every worker.

Linda A. Meric is National Director of 9to5, National Association of Working Women.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Paid Sick Days Podcast

Check out this great podcast about the paid sick days effort in Colorado!

9to5 Colorado Board Member Rev. Dawn Riley Duval and 9to5 Colorado Organizer Erin Bennett talk about the need for paid sick days in Colorado and how guaranteeing paid sick days for all workers will ensure healthy communities, healthy families and healthy workplaces.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Why Join the Movement?

Discrimination still exists. Poverty still haunts us. Racism confronts us everyday. We still struggle for equality and justice. These and many more reasons are why we must build a movement to strengthen the lives of working families.

Members have joined 9to5 because harassment and discrimination has existed in our personal lives, and we are now looking for justice. Many people first enter 9to5’s office seeking resources in the way of a lawyer for a sexual harassment charge or are seeking advice on how to file a claim of unemployment insurance. 9to5’s staff and members can provide these resources to individuals but many are not satisfied with this answer—they want change that will last beyond the individual.

Join 9to5 today to work towards systemic change and to start to build power with others—right in your own community. We can build a movement together.