Nel's New Day

April 4, 2017

(Un)Equal Pay Day 2017 – Still Little Progress

Today is Equal Pay Day, the day of the year showing how many more days into this year that women must work to make what men earned during the previous year. The day is earlier this year than last, meaning that a woman now makes $0.80 for every dollar a man makes. That statistic is much better than 54 years ago before the passage of the so-called “Equal Pay Act” when women made $0.59, but at this rate, women won’t have equal pay until 2059. Women haven’t made made little progress in the 21st century.

Only four of 120 occupations pay women slightly more than men: counselors, food preparers and servers, sewing machine operators, and teacher assistants. In 107 of these occupations, the wage gap is at least five percent and one as disparate as 44.4 percent. The gap is also much larger for black women than white women except for office administrators or work in natural resource, construction, and maintenance. Median weekly earnings for black women are only 62.5 percent of white men, putting their Equal Pay Day later in the year, and Hispanic women earn only 57.2 percent as much.

The claim that male-dominated fields just pay more isn’t a justification: women still earn less than men in these jobs such as truck drivers, janitors, and software developers. In other careers, female managers make 77 percent of male managers’ salaries and female chief executives less than 78 percent. In female-dominated jobs, men still make more than women. Female nurses, teachers, and secretaries all make less than the rare men who take those positions. Four years ago, the new chair of Washington state’s GOP chair made $20,000 less than her male predecessor.

Women are 80 percent more likely than men to be impoverished at age 65 and older. Women age 75 to 79 are three times more likely. Women are more likely to report that their primary source of income is Social Security—50 percent to 38 percent for men. Women are 14 percent less likely to receive a pension. Over a 40-year the pay gap between men and women is an average of $430,480 and much more for women of color, as much as $1 million. Women over 65 years old were born before desegregation, seriously affecting education and employment opportunities. One-third of women in the United States live either in or on the edge of poverty. Gender pay equality would annually boost the income of full-time working women by $6,250 on average and cut the poverty rate in half for the six million who live below the poverty line. It would also raise the GDP by 2.9 percent, $450 billion.

Myths about the disparity blame women taking off work to care for family members, frequently because of no paid family leave and affordable childcare, but this excuse isn’t a valid reason. Women are frequently offered less pay for the same work or forced into devalued female-dominated occupations. In addition, women get less pay increase than men for their higher education. In 40 percent of households, women are the primary earners.

Conservatives maintain, without proof, that tax cuts will cause economic growth. Yet increased earnings for women will have that result because most of these workers are lower-income and middle-income who will use their increases to purchase items and thus boost demand and the economy. Success of three proposed bills would accomplish these goals: the Paycheck Fairness Act to hold businesses accountable; the Healthy Families Act to allow paid short-term sick days; and the FAMILY Act to permit longer-term paid time for health reasons.

People who claim that existing laws give equal pay to men and women should talk to 17-year-old Jenson Walcott. Hired the same day as her friend Jake Reed at the Pizza Studio in Legends Outlet Mall (Kansas City KS), they were both fired when she asked the manager why Reed got paid more per hour than she did. The manager claimed that he took that action because they were not supposed to talk about their salaries, but no one had told them about this policy. The two teenagers ended up talking about their experience at last summer’s national Democratic convention. After the convention, the pizza chain apologized and said that the manager had been fired. But the two young people weren’t offered their jobs back.

While the GOP Congress blocks bills to provide gender equality, Massachusetts was the first state to pass a law taking effect on July 1, 2018, that requires employers in the private sector to pay men and women the same for comparable work that “requires substantially similar skill, effort and responsibility and is performed under similar working conditions.” Another part of this “first-in-the-country” law bans employers from asking about salary histories, a method to discover how little the applicant might be paid and thus continue pay discrimination. Employers can no longer stop employees from talking about their pay with others, a practice that promotes pay discrimination. Seven states have passed laws for disclosure but not equality although some are considering bills.

Workers’ comp, a program that kicks in after work-related injuries, also favors men because women get smaller disability payments. For example, a California settlement paid a woman less from nerve damage and carpal tunnel syndrome because of the claim that 20 percent of her disability occurred because it is common in women of her age. Another reduction came from the claim that the woman was breast-feeding although the symptoms of carpal tunnel came before she was even pregnant. Removal of a prostate after work-related cancer gives a man an impairment rating of 16 to 20 percent no matter what his age; a mastectomy for a woman from work-induced breast cancer is allowed a five-percent impairment rating for women of reproductive age and none at all for older women. Work-related “psychiatric injuries” such as depression have been reduced by as much as 80 percent from of “perimenopausal factors” and “gynecological issues.” Male characteristics are never cited as pre-existing conditions or risk factors—reasons for reducing disability benefits.

Women make up over half the population, but DDT’s government appointments not requiring Senate confirmation were only 27 percent of his almost 400 appointments during his first four weeks. A chart shows that the largest gender disparities were in departments considered “masculine” such as Commerce and Defense. Only one woman was in the eight new NASA hires. Only the departments of Health and Human Services, State, and Personnel Management showed more female than male appointments.

Asked during his campaign on Morning Joe if he supported equal pay for men and women, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) said:

“When you have to categorize men and women into a particular group and a particular pay scale, it gets very—because people do different jobs. It’s very hard to say what is the same job. It’s a very, very tricky question. And I talked about competition with other places and other parts of the world, Mika. This is one of the things we have to look at very strongly.”

DDT’s new “adviser,” his daughter Ivanka Kushner, received media praise for tweeting that “women deserve equal pay for equal work.” This is the same person who almost refused to give eight weeks’ maternity leave to her former chief marketing officer, who has the shoes she sells made in a cramped Chinese factory and other clothing in Bangladesh and Indonesia, and who had her Chinese-made scarves recalled over burn risk Her father rolled back the 2014 Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces order mandating companies asking for government contracts comply with some basic standards of pay equity and safety and defunded access to reproductive care for poor women in the world.

New York has the smallest wage gap between men and women; Wyoming has the largest. How’s the gender pay inequality in your state? Check here. More information about the wage gender gap here.  And here.

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