A New Way to Equal Pay For All Women

Martha Burk

Martha Burk Political Psychologist

Equal Pay Day is here. Never heard of it? If you’re a working woman, or a man who cares about the women in your life, this matters to you, so listen up.

Equal Pay Day is the day in any given year when women working full-time, year-round catch up to men’s earnings from the previous year. A simple example: Let’s say the average man made $35,000 last year, from January 1 to December 31. The average woman working the same amount of time made $27,300.

It would take her until April 4th of this year to amass the same earnings the guy made by the end of last year. Broken down by race, African-American women won’t meet the benchmark until August, Native American women must wait until September, and Hispanic women will lag even further, until November.

Pay discrimination based on sex has been illegal since the Equal Pay Act was passed way back in 1963. Still, the pay gap remains at 22 cents on the dollar for full-time, year-round work, and it hasn’t moved in over a decade. At that pace the gap won’t close until 2059, according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.

One big reason is that the burden of proof is all on the woman  – employers who discriminate don’t have to do anything  – just sit back and dare a woman to sue. Go ahead and hire a lawyer, drag through the courts for a dozen years  – hat is if we don’t fire you for filing a claim in the first place (retaliation is illegal too — but who’s watching?).

There are a number of reasons for the pay gap that don’t have anything to do with qualifications or education. One is historical discrimination. For most of our history it was legal to pay women less for the same job  – employers were even allowed to advertise that fact. Another reason is historically undervaluing “women’s jobs,” like day care attendant and nursing, as compared to “men’s jobs,” like dog pound attendant and auto repair.

Another problem is lack of transparency. Employers are not required to disclose pay, and in many workplaces it’s against the rules to talk about it with co-workers. So women can’t find out what they’re making compared to men on the same job.

But in a bizarre twist on the “don’t ask, don’t tell” rules that shield employers, it’s customary for companies to ask for salary history and use that information to set wages for new hires. For job seekers who have been earning less than their counterparts and working below market rates  –  primarily women  –  pegging new wages to old wages maintains the discriminatory practice.

Use of salary history guarantees that bias follows workers wherever they go, whatever their profession, and no matter their skills. Wage gaps that begin early can follow workers all their working lives.

A New Way to Equal Pay

There is growing bipartisan consensus that a simple change in the hiring process   prohibiting employers from asking job seekers how much they currently are paid   can make a real difference in closing the gender wage gap. The premise is that if salary offers are based on the market value of the position, past performance and candidate’s credentials, not their current salary, the cycle of discrimination can finally be broken.

To date, two states (Massachusetts, New York) and four cities (New York, Philadelphia, New Orleans, Pittsburgh) have passed legislation prohibiting employers from asking applicants about salary history, and/or prohibiting them from obtaining the information from prior employers. The bills differ in that some apply only to public employers in the jurisdiction, and others apply to all employers, public and private.

With no relief in sight from the federal government in closing the gender pay gap, innovation by states and cities is welcome news. If more follow suit, maybe we won’t have to wait until 2059 to finally stop marking (Un)Equal Pay Day.


This was reposted from Our Future.

Posted In: Allied Approaches, From Campaign for America's Future

Union Matters

Get to Know AFL-CIO's Affiliates: National Association of Letter Carriers

From the AFL-CIO

Next up in our series that takes a deeper look at each of our affiliates is the National Association of Letter Carriers.

Name of Union: National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC)

Mission: To unite fraternally all city letter carriers employed by the U.S. Postal Service for their mutual benefit; to obtain and secure rights as employees of the USPS and to strive at all times to promote the safety and the welfare of every member; to strive for the constant improvement of the Postal Service; and for other purposes. NALC is a single-craft union and is the sole collective-bargaining agent for city letter carriers.

Current Leadership of Union: Fredric V. Rolando serves as president of NALC, after being sworn in as the union's 18th president in 2009. Rolando began his career as a letter carrier in 1978 in South Miami before moving to Sarasota in 1984. He was elected president of Branch 2148 in 1988 and served in that role until 1999. In the ensuing years, he worked in various roles for NALC before winning his election as a national officer in 2002, when he was elected director of city delivery. In 2006, he won election as executive vice president. Rolando was re-elected as NALC president in 2010, 2014 and 2018.

Brian Renfroe serves as executive vice president, Lew Drass as vice president, Nicole Rhine as secretary-treasurer, Paul Barner as assistant secretary-treasurer, Christopher Jackson as director of city delivery, Manuel L. Peralta Jr. as director of safety and health, Dan Toth as director of retired members, Stephanie Stewart as director of the Health Benefit Plan and James W. “Jim” Yates as director of life insurance.

Number of Members: 291,000 active and retired letter carriers.

Members Work As: City letter carriers.

Industries Represented: The United States Postal Service.

History: In 1794, the first letter carriers were appointed by Congress as the implementation of the new U.S. Constitution was being put into effect. By the time of the Civil War, free delivery of city mail was established and letter carriers successfully concluded a campaign for the eight-hour workday in 1888. The next year, letter carriers came together in Milwaukee and the National Association of Letter Carriers was formed.

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