Monday, September 15, 2014

Women Deserve Equal Pay for Equal Work

Women continue to earn less than men. In 2012, the last year for which we have data, women earned 76.5 cents for each dollar earned by a man—a figure which has remained essentially unchanged since 2001. The statistics for women of color are even more staggering, with African American women earning 64 cents and Latinas only 54 cents for each dollar earned by a white man.

This practice is bad for women, bad for families, and bad for our local economies.

April 8 was recognized as Equal Pay Day because it marks the date a woman’s salary finally catches up with a man’s salary from the previous year. Additional “Equal Pay Days” throughout the year mark the even higher discrepancies for particular groups of women: June 12 for mothers, July 16 for African American women, and November 12 for Latinas. The Senate voted down the Paycheck Fairness Act earlier this year, which would have taken a critical step in the right direction to eliminate the gender wage gap.

But for the first time ever, the Senate last week agreed to move on to a full debate of the Paycheck Fairness Act, by a vote of 73-25. We’ve passed the first of many hurdles, but it's not over – this is the Senate’s chance to do the right thing.

Paycheck Fairness Act: Background

The most blatant forms of pay discrimination based on gender are illegal, but current law is too narrow to serve as an effective deterrent or tool for enforcement. The Paycheck Fairness Act (PFA) would help narrow the gender pay gap by closing some of the loopholes in current law and give employees the legal tools they need to challenge the wage gap itself. Specifically, the PFA would:

  • Require employers to demonstrate that wage differentials between men and women holding the same position and doing the same work stem from factors other than sex;
  • Prohibit retaliation against workers who inquire about their employers’ wage practices or disclose their own wages, and permit reasonable comparisons between employees within clearly defined geographical areas to determine fair wages;
  • Strengthen penalties for equal pay violations;
  • Provide guidelines to show employers how to evaluate jobs with the goal of eliminating unfair disparities;
  • Encourage proactive enforcement of equal pay laws by re-instating the collection of wage-related data and providing training for the workers who enforce our equal pay laws.
  • Modernize the Equal Pay Act to make it more in line with the class action procedures available under Title VII.

President Obama has signed an executive order prohibiting federal contractors from retaliating against workers who discuss their salaries. We must extend these same basic protections to all working women!

As faithful advocates, we know we must respond to the command in Leviticus 19:13, “Do not defraud or rob your neighbor. Do not hold back the wages of a hired worker overnight.” Ask your Senators to continue to shed light on the issue with each passing Equal Pay Day by passing the Paycheck Fairness Act!

What does the PC(USA) say?

The 218th General Assembly (2008) approved “God’s Work in Women’s Hands: Pay Equity and Just Compensation.”  “For the ‘promotion of social righteousness, and the exhibition of the Kingdom of Heaven to the world’ (Book of Order, G-1.0200)” the Assembly “recommitt[ed] itself to the support of institutional policies and legislation that would:

  • Expand women’s civil protections to include equal pay for work of comparable worth;
  • Provide prorated compensation and benefits for part-time employees;
  • Heal work/family conflict through adequate financial support for those providing childcare and elder care, more flexible work hours, paid medical and family leave, family-supporting wages for all workers, and universal access to quality health care;
  • Establish quality education as a basic human right;
  • Uncover and eliminate racial bias in hiring and employment practices;
  • Reduce the growing inequality in wages, benefits, and wealth.

“God’s Work in Women’s Hands” further directed the Washington Office and the UN Office to advocate for the ratification of the Equal Remuneration Convention and urged “synods, presbyteries, and individuals to advocate for local, state, and federal legislation that support these (above) policies.”