Rhonda Nelson, Women’s Network International Chair
NOW IS THE RIGHT TIME FOR EQUAL PAY FOR EQUAL WORK
Several months ago, I was elated when California, Illinois, and New York joined Connecticut, Delaware, North Dakota, and Oregon in passing laws that require women to be paid equally for work that is, “substantially similar” to that of their male co-workers. The laws also places safeguards to ensure that employers do not retaliate if their employees openly discuss their wages or inquire about their companies’ pay practices. Effective January 11, 2016, the laws also allow the Federal government to ban federal contractors from disciplining or firing workers who make inquiries about their pay.
While these measures will help close the gender wage gap, we need more states and Congress to step up and pass paycheck fairness laws. Over two-thirds of American families depend on women’s economic security in order to survive; yet, women make 79 cents for every dollar a white male earns. Black and Latina women make even less at 63 cents and 54 cents respectively, and the conditions in Canada pretty much mirror U.S. trends. Non-union women are also less likely to have paid sick, personal, and family medical leave, which also places an additional burden on the family.
Our nation’s lack of work-family policies have led many to justify the gender pay gap based on a number of factors, such as the concentration of women in traditionally female-dominated occupations, length of work experience, and time off for maternity leave or child care.
During a speech at a recent event co-hosted by the National Women’s Law Center, AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Schuler stated that, despite discrimination, women frequently: “go along to get along.” Ms. Schuler asks working women to tell their stories and unite behind a policy agenda that gives them more rights on the job and more freedom in their daily lives.
I urge my UFCW Sisters in the United States, if you haven’t already, to take the AFL-CIO’s Working Women comprehensive survey that can be found at ufcw.org/wwsurvey . I took the survey and so should you! The survey will give you the opportunity to have your voice heard about the challenges you face as working women.
While we applaud those elected officials that have helped pass equal pay laws, women must continue to stand up and speak loudly until others wake up and realize that paycheck fairness and work-family policies can only strengthen the economic security of our families and our nation’s economy.
Liz Shuler, “Women and Work.” AFL-CIO, October 28, 2015, 10:59-11:01. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jkH8pdzzcrI