New York, NY – The successful conclusion of a years long legal battle charging the City of New York with discrimination against women of color working as administrative managers lent a triumphant air to the 13 Annual NYC Equal Pay Day action on the steps of City Hall on Tuesday. But the intolerable reality that women continue to be shortchanged in the workplace remained front and center.
“This settlement corrects a 40-year historical wage disparity based on gender and race — a wage gap for women and minorities that is all too real and all too common in what is supposed to be one of the most progressive cities in America,” CWA Local 1180 President Gloria Middleton told the gathering of labor rights advocates and elected officials.
Two decades into the 21st century and women working full-time still earn just .81 cents for every dollar earned by their white male counterparts. The stats are even more jarring for women of color. African-American women earn just .65 cents compared to white men. Hispanic women, just .56 cents. And Asian-American women, anywhere between .57 cents and 83 cents.
“We’re working similar jobs as men with the same titles, often with higher education, earning less and it’s outrageous,” Middleton added. “We should be angry. We should be upset. We should be doing something about it. It’s time for us to have equal pay for equal work.”
Several legislative measures, in addition to Local 1180’s successful settlement against the City of New York, are confronting entrenched biases. They include the New York State Equal Pay Law and Women’s Equality Act, New York State Family Leave Act and the New York City Salary History Ban.
Without further strides, however, PowHer New York — a coalition of activists and organization pushing for economic fairness for women — estimates that the state’s pay gap is on pace to endure another 27 years.
Earlier this year, Intro 633 was codified into law and requires the City of New York to now provide employment data on all city workers.
“This law, I think, will help fix the disparity and inequity and systematic discrimination that we’ve seen for far too long,” City Council Speaker Corey Johnson said.
Equal Pay Day observances symbolize the additional length of time women need to work in order to match the wages earned by their male counterparts in the year prior. For women of color the wait stretches into August and even November.
“That is shameful, that is disgusting, and that is racist,” Speaker Johnson added. “These are horrible and heartbreaking statistics that show how much more work there is to do.”
Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul called the ongoing pay disparity “a crime.”
“If you are a company that will not pay women the same for equal or comparable work — then you are committing a crime against women.”
If you are a company that will not pay women the same for equal or comparable work — then you are committing a crime against women. — New York State Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul
Former NYC Public advocate and newly-elected New York State Attorney General Letitia James — the first woman of color to hold citywide office — pointed out that half of the major corporations in this country are guilty of paying women less than their male counterparts.
Said the AG, “That has to change.”
New York City Council Majority Leader Laurie Cumbo [D-District 35] predicted a reckoning — at least in New York.
“We always knew these wage disparities were present,” she said. “It’s not a feeling anymore; it’s not an assumption — it’s now a fact. And we can utilize the data. Finally, we have access to the data and that is going to be game changing for so may people.”
According to City Council Member Helen Rosenthal [D-District 6] — chronic shortchanging of working women translates into a $5 billion shortfall for the overall economy.
“And if that money were put into the system we would be lifting all boats,” the Committee on Women chair said. “We would be growing communities. Single moms raising the next generation could raise them with dignity, light and support.”
City Council Member Carlina Rivera [D-District 2] called the lack of pay parity “absolutely embarrassing” and pointed out that paying New York City women what they earn could help families afford five more months of rent; seven additional months of childcare, and more than four more months of employer-based healthcare
Meanwhile, under Mayor Bill de Blasio’s stewardship, New York City’s budget has climbed from $77 billion to $93 billion. An expansion that has Rosenthal wondering “Who’s benefitting from that increase?”
But, “Who needs to benefit?” she said. “Those women are standing right behind me.”