Emmelle Israel, AFL-CIO Media Outreach fellow, sends us this.
At the current rate, pay equity between men and women won’t occur for another 45 years, according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR).
Add in the past 48 years since the Equal Pay Act was first signed into law and you have an almost 100-year long struggle for basic wage parity—even longer if you reach back into history and take into account all the women who stood up for themselves when they noticed their male counterparts were paid more for similar work.
The enduring wage disparity between female and male workers prompted a series of forums on Capitol Hill regarding the gender wage gap, sponsored by Women’s Policy, Inc.
AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler was a featured speaker, along with Susan Meisinger of HRExecutive Online at yesterday’s forum, moderated by Women’s Policy Inc. President Cindy Hall and Rep. Gwen Moore.
Shuler shared with attendees a story about her first job working at a restaurant as a waitress, making only five cents above minimum wage. All the waitresses were women and all the cooks were men. Although the men were already paid more than the women, the waitresses had to pool their tips together and divide the money with the cooks as well. It was her “first
experience with wage, gender and workplace frustration.”
But since her initial involvement with the labor movement, she said she has been part of the leading charge to ensure pay equality for women and all workers:
In the union movement everyone is paid the same for the same work… If we all stick together, we can demand more…The process of collective bargaining happens in increments, but the small increases add up.
The “union difference” allows for the bargaining of enforceable wage standards which leads to a 30 percent increase in average pay for women who are in a union compared to those who are not. That could be the difference between a lifetime of struggle or one of economic security for many working women.
Shuler also noted more work must be done to close the wage gap by bringing public and legislative attention to the issue, more enforceable standards—such as the Paycheck Fairness Act must be passed, and more women should be mentored to know their value and “be assertive, not apologetic” about asking for higher pay when they provide employers with high quality work.
Following the forum, a Q & A session between the speakers and attendees brought up even more discussion about interrelated
issues including studies on gender bias in society, occupational segregation between the sexes, and even the need for wage equity among the Congressional staff in the forum’s Capitol Hill venue.
Learn more about the issue and what you can do to help close the gender wage gap.
We can’t afford to wait for the issue to resolve itself.