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Sponsors of Assembly Equal Pay Legislation Call For an End to Wage Discrimination

May 7, 2011
By NYS Assembly Member Communications

Sponsors of legislation aimed at addressing the issue of wage discrimination still plaguing women and people of color joined advocates in calling for an end to pay discrimination in New York State. Recently, the Assembly passed a package of bills designed to end wage disparity and fully implement equal pay policies statewide. Participants at the news conference called on the State Senate to honor Mother’s Day by passing the measures.

Assemblymembers Ellen Jaffee, Keith Wright, Michele Titus, Barbara Lifton and Linda Rosenthal, were joined by Lois Haignere and Barbara Smith of the New York State Pay Equity Coalition at the morning new conference.

In New York State, the average salary for a full-time working woman is $8,590 less each year than a full time working man’s salary. This means that, statewide, full time working women lose more than $22 billion each year. Studies show that if the wage gap were eliminated, full time working women who support more than a million homes throughout the state could afford 64 more weeks of groceries, 9 more months of rent, three more years of family health insurance premiums, or more than 2,000 additional gallons of gas.[1]

Recent census figures show that women have surpassed men in receiving advanced degrees, yet they continue to make less than men. Among adults 25 and older, 10.6 million U.S. women have master’s degrees or higher, compared to 10.5 million men.[2]

The legislative package passed by the Assembly would make it easier to enforce equal-pay policies and create a statewide comparable-salary policy. The bills would:

-make it a discriminatory practice to compensate employees of opposite sexes differently for work that is of comparable worth (A.3690/S.399); 

-enact the New York State Fair Pay Act to address and enforce pay equity, including broadening equivalent job definitions, specifying methods to determine equivalent skill, making it unlawful for an employer to discriminate between employees on the basis of sex, race or national origin and ensuring that positions predominately held by women and people of color are not undervalued (A.6130/S.2200); 

-make it a discriminatory practice for public employers to compensate employees of opposite sexes differently for work that is of comparable worth (A.6448/S.1680); and 

-establish a statewide policy of equal pay regardless of gender, race or national origin and comparability of value of work and ensure corrective action (A.1780/S.248). 

A study conducted in one Long Island school district revealed that the starting salary of the school nurses was $27,000, while the base pay for the groundskeepers was $29,000.[3] By using a gender-neutral job evaluation system, such disparities would be eliminated. 

In addition, studies have shown that among the working poor in jobs predominately held by minorities, pay equity brought 60 percent of them above the poverty threshold for a family of three. This not only increases economic stability for underpaid employees, but helps to transition them off public assistance.3 

“Despite decades of our best efforts, the gender pay gap is still staggering, with women earning only 77 cents for every dollar a man makes in a similar job and with the same qualifications,” said Jaffee (D-Suffern), chair of the Assembly Task Force on Women’s Issues. “Such persistent inequality demands we match our calls for equal pay with the swift and concrete action necessary to end this utterly unacceptable reality.” 

“Mother’s Day is a very special day in New York State, as it gives us a chance to give thanks for all that these hard-working women do for the fabric of our society,” said Wright (D-Harlem), chair of the Labor Committee. “In kind, the New York State Assembly has shown its commitment to the mothers among us with the passage of the Equal Pay Act, which guarantees equal pay for equal work regardless of gender and ensures that the women of our society get the respect they deserve, both at home and in the workplace.” 

“The efforts of many full time working mothers with households supported by their income continue to be undervalued because of historic wage discrimination,” said Lifton (D-Ithaca) “Families suffer when women and people of color are underpaid it’s long past due that we rid our state of this shameful problem.” 

“With more and more women investing in higher education and acting as the head of the household, unequal pay places them at an unfair advantage that they simply can’t afford,” said Titus (D-Queens), chair of the Legislative Women’s Caucus. “That’s why the package of bills passed by the Assembly would make sure their hard work doesn’t continue to place them at the bottom of the pay scale.”

“Great social change has always been met with great resistance. The women’s suffrage movement and the civil rights movement inflamed passions and were the source of years of great social and political upheaval; changing the law to put an end to slavery provoked a civil war. The movement for equality, between races, genders or religions, has sparked debate, demonstrations, and instability.  Looking back, however, there is one common theme, a thread that unites these great historical changes, and that is the fact that they did not destroy the very fabric of our society, as some at the time argued they would. Rather, they gave life to the equality upon which this country was founded. Given that history, I am confident that passing legislation to end wage discrimination and ensure that women and men earn the same money for the same work, will only help New York State and the country down the path to becoming a nation of real equality for all,” said Rosenthal.

“Pay equity or comparable worth is a critical reform that addresses systemic wage discrimination in job titles that are predominantly performed by women and/or people of color. When combined with access to affordable child care and other anti discrimination measures, pay equity would drastically reduce the percentage of women and people of color living at or below the poverty level in New York State,” said Smith, of the New York State Pay Equity Coalition.



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