by Linda Meric, Executive Director, 9to5, National Association of Working Women
Misogyny has taken center stage this 2012 election cycle. This “war on women” has legislators voting to limit women’s control over their health. Political candidates have spoken out against women serving in combat. Candidates have called the federal equal pay law a “nuisance,” and some elected officials are claiming that pay discrimination against women doesn’t exist.
The simple truth is that a significant pay gap does exist for women and people of color. Women were paid 77 cents for every dollar men got paid in 2010 annual earnings. For women of color, the pay gap is even wider. African American women earned 67 cents and Latinas 58 cents for every dollar earned by white males, the highest earners.
Mary Henderson, a 9to5 Colorado member, knows about pay inequity first-hand. When she worked at a Colorado Wal-Mart store, she was paid thousands of dollars less than a man with less education and the same seniority in the same position. When she inquired about being paid less, she was punished with a transfer to a store requiring an hours-long commute.
We need to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act (S. 3220) to close loopholes in the Equal Pay Act and bar retaliation against workers like Mary Henderson and others who disclose their own wages to co-workers. Without this bill, employers penalize and even fire employees for talking about their salaries, leaving workers in the dark, preventing them from ever finding out about pay discrimination.
9to5 member LaTerrell Bradford, calls equal pay a “non-negotiable.” While working as part of an all-female support team, a man was hired in the same job classification. Her female supervisor discovered that he was to earn much more than any of the women and advocated for every team member to be paid at the higher rate. Human resources relented because as Bradford says, “It would not have been fair nor legal to sit next to him, do the exact same work and have him be paid more.”
The wage gap has long-term effects on the economic security of women and families. Women lose hundreds of thousands of dollars, up to over a million, over their careers. That means less money to make ends meet and achieve economic security for families. A lifetime of lower wages also means that women save less for retirement and qualify for lower social security payments.
The country is leading up to an election where women will play a major role in choosing our president. Candidates need to focus on issues that are important to women: pay equity and the economy. Pay equity reduces poverty and stimulates the economy. All women deserve to be paid fairly, and when they are, their families and the economy will win.
Part of the #HERvotes blog carnival.
Background on 9to5, National Association of Working Women: 9to5 is one of the largest national membership-based organizations of working women in the U.S., creating a powerful force for change. Founded in 1973, 9to5 empowers women to organize and lead campaigns on family-friendly workplace policies, equal opportunity and economic security issues. To learn more visit 9to5.org or call the Job Survival Helpline at (800) 522-0925.