By Barbara Price
November 2, marks Latinas’ Equal Pay Day, the symbolic day when Hispanic and Latina women’s earnings “catch up” to non-Hispanic white men’s earnings from the previous year. On average Latinas are paid 54 percent of what non-Hispanic white men are paid, the same ratio as in 1987. That means it takes Latinas almost an entire extra year of full-time, year-round work in order to be paid what the average non-Hispanic white man took home by December 31, 2016. This is a loss of over one million dollars over the course of her career.
In 2016, on average, women who worked full time took home 80 cents for every dollar a full-time male worker earned. In Pennsylvania, the gap remained 79 cents for every dollar ranking us 29th out of all states and the District of Columbia, a drop from 27th last year. These numbers come from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) collection of summary pay data by gender, race, and ethnicity through the Employer Information Report. Unfortunately this may be the last data we will get on pay equity. In July, Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee supported language defunding the EEOC’s ability to collect that data. An amendment to restore funding was voted down by the House of Representatives by a margin of 192 to 223. Kudos to our Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick who voted for the amendment, only one of three Republicans to do so. Please thank him for his vote, especially since the pay gap for the 8th congressional district dropped from 77.8% in 2015 to 76.5% in 2016. We are losing ground.
Women of color are usually more affected by the pay gap. The gap remains consistent across age groups, levels of education, and for full time workers across occupations, such as 65% for financial managers and 81% for software developers. This holds true even in lower wage jobs. The single most common occupation for Latinas is that of maids, housekeepers, janitors, or building cleaners, where they make up 22 percent of people employed in those jobs. Latinas who work full time in these occupations, year round, are paid just 58 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men in the same occupations.
The wage gap is not just a matter of fairness. It is a matter of economics for women and for families. About 71 percent of all mothers in the United States work for pay with families increasingly depending on women’s wages just to make ends meet. One-third (32 percent) are single mothers and often the sole support of their families. This can affect the amount of social security or pension she receives in retirement and contributes to many elderly women living in poverty. Providing equal pay for women would have a dramatic impact on poverty. The poverty rate for all working women in Pennsylvania would drop from 7.3% to 3.6%. For single, working mothers the Pennsylvania’s poverty rate would drop from 27.8% to 11.1%. The pay gap costs a typical woman in Pennsylvania about $918,120 over the course of her career.
But aren’t there laws that prohibit such discrimination? Yes, there is the federal Equal Pay Act which amended the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA) to prohibit pay discrimination on the basis of sex. Pennsylvania’s Equal Pay Law of 1959 was amended in 1967 to exclude anyone subject to the federal Fair Labor Standards Act which means not all employees are covered by Pennsylvania’s law. Unfortunately after 50 years, the pay gap still exists. This is why we need comprehensive pay equity legislation in Pennsylvania.
HB1243 sponsored by Representatives Brian Sims and Tina Davis is a bill that addresses many of the areas of concern. It covers all employees including public, private, and small business employers with no exceptions for those covered by the federal Fair Labor Standards Act. It protects employees from intentional and unintentional discrimination and does not allow employers to request salary history or retaliate against employees who discuss their wages. It offers employers protection, clarifying employer defenses by spelling out bono fide reasons for pay disparities and establishes strong legal procedures and remedies such as reinstatement, promotion or other equitable relief. HB1243 requires employers to compensate men and women equally for jobs that are comparable in that they require substantially similar skill, effort, and responsibility and are performed under similar working conditions. Ask your representatives to support HB1243. Women can’t afford to wait for equal pay.
Barbara Price is a BCWAC Board Member.