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

Freight can’t wait

From the USW

From tumbledown bridges to decrepit roads and failing water systems, crumbling infrastructure undermines America’s safety and prosperity. In coming weeks, Union Matters will delve into this neglect and the urgent need for a rebuilding campaign that creates jobs, fuels economic growth and revitalizes communities.

A freight train hauling lumber and nylon manufacturing chemicals derailed, caught fire and caused a 108-year-old bridge to collapse in Tempe, Ariz., this week, in the second accident on the same bridge within a month.

The bridge was damaged after the first incident, according to Union Pacific railroad that owns the rail bridge, and re-opened two days later. 

The official cause of the derailments is still under investigation, but it remains clear that the failure to modernize and maintain America’s railroad infrastructure is dangerous. 

In 2019, 499 trains that derailed were found to have defective or broken track, roadbed or structures, according to the Federal Railroad Administration’s database of safety analysis.

While railroad workers’ unions have called for increased safety improvements, rail companies have also used technology and automation as an excuse to downsize their work forces.

For example, rail companies have implemented a cost-saving measure known as Precision Scheduled Railroading (PSR), which has resulted in mass layoffs and shoddy safety protocols. 

Though privately-owned railroads have spent significantly to upgrade large, Class I trains, regional Class II trains and local, short-line Class III trains that carry important goods for farmers and businesses still rely on state and local funds for improvements. 

But cash-strapped states struggle to adequately inspect new technologies and fund safety improvements, and repairing or replacing the aging track and rail bridges will require significant public investment.

A true infrastructure commitment will not only strengthen the country’s railroad networks and increase U.S. global economic competitiveness. It will also create millions of family-sustaining jobs needed to inspect, repair and manufacture new parts for mass transit systems, all while helping to prevent future disasters.

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There is Dignity in All Work

There is Dignity in All Work