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Women’s Human Rights – Equal Pay

Wednesday 23 April 2008


Iranian Women’s Solidarity Network

Looking Back — Moving Forward: (Observing Equal Pay Day on April 22)

by: Elahe Amani

“What happened to me is not only an insult to my dignity, but it had real consequences for my ability to care for my family. Every paycheck I received, I got less than what I was entitled to under the law. The Supreme Court said that this didn’t count as illegal discrimination, but it sure feels like discrimination when you are on the receiving end of that smaller paycheck and trying to support your family with less money than the men are getting for doing the same job. And according to the Court, if you don’t figure things out right away, the company can treat you like a second-class citizen for the rest of your career. That isn’t right.” Lilly Ledbetter

These are the words of Lilly Ledbetter who at the age of 60 years old and on the verge of retiring find out that she was being shortchanged at work by what her lawyer called a "good old boys" network. The way she found out about this was an anonymous letter revealed to Ledbetter she was making substantially less money than male co-workers at the Goodyear tire plant where she worked. She was owed almost $225,000 in back-pay over her 19-year career.

Equal Pay Day 2008 will be observed on April 22nd. This day was originated by the National Committee on Pay Equity (NCPE) in 1996 as a public awareness event to exemplify the gap between men’s and women’s wages in United State. The day, observed on a Tuesday in April, symbolizes how far into the year a woman must work, on average, to earn as much as a man earned the previous year. (Tuesday is the day on which women’s wages catch up to men’s wages from the previous week.). in another words, a woman has to work the three full months of January, February and March till a day in April ( each year will be different date ) to make the same annual wages/salary that a man doing the same job made in 12 months of 2007. Women in the United States are still paid only 77 cents for every dollar earned by men.

This day is giving us the opportunity to look back at the struggle of women for equality – including equality in pay - which give us the hope to keep moving forward and protest the long due inequality – including pay inequality. Addressing women’s inequality shall be protested by all the people who believe in the human rights.

Women in the United State , working full-time, year-round earn only about 77 cents for every dollar earned by men. The median annual earnings of women ages 15 and older are $31,858, compared to $41,386 for their male counterparts. (Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States )

The gap between the earning of minority women and white men is significantly worse. An African American woman earns just 64 cents for every dollar earned by a white man, while a Hispanic woman earns only 52 cents on the dollar compared to her white male counterpart. The median earnings of African American women working full-time, year-round are $29,6805 compared to $46,4376 for white men; the median for Hispanic women are only $24,214. (Source: National Women’s Law Center )

One year out of college, women working full time earn only 80 percent as much as their male colleagues earn. Ten years after graduation, women fall farther behind, earning only 69 percent as much as men earn.

Likewise, Mothers are more likely than fathers (or other women) to work part time, take leave, or take a break from the work force—factors that negatively affect wages. Among women who graduated from college in 1992–93, more than one-fifth (23 percent) of mothers were out of the work force in 2003, and another 17 percent were working part time. Less than 2 percent of fathers were out of the work force in 2003, and less than 2 percent were working part time. On average, mothers earn less than women without children earn, and both groups earn less than men earn. (Source: Behind Pay Gap, 2007, AAUW) In terms of financial gain, the wage/salary disparity, over the course of a lifetime costs the average American woman and her family from $440,000 to $2 million. It is interesting and we need to remind ourselves that the Equal Pay Act of 1962 and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 were intended to eliminate discriminatory pay practices. However, as history proven, equal rights and access to citizens in the eyes of legal infrastructure of a society is only the first step in the long struggle of implementing and enforcing these laws. Often the societies are caught in the twilight zone of neither being able to eliminate these laws nor the deep rooted patriarchal values and culture along with the greed and wants of the capitalist, curtail the political will to enforce it and bear the consequences. Contrary to the existing perceptions, respecting the dignity and human rights and equality of men and women will not be costly to the public and private sectors. In Minnesota , where equal pay legislation was implemented for only public-sector employees over a four-year period, the cost was only 3.7 percent of the state’s payroll budget. In Washington State , equal pay for state employees, implemented over an eight-year period, cost only 2.6 percent of overall personnel expenditures. Contrary to the existing perceptions, the reasons women make less is because they spend more time out of the workplace due to care-giving responsibilities and choices. While there is a portion of the wage gap that is explained by economists as a result of work patterns, the U.S. General Accounting Office found that about 20 percent of the wage gap is unaccounted for and thus can be attributed to gender discrimination.

Contrary to the existing perceptions, the wage gap is not only for the low end jobs in the market. A significant gender wage gap is also found among doctors, lawyers and business people. A study of University of Michigan Law School graduates found that even after controlling for child care, work history, school performance and other variables, about one-fourth of the male-female gap remained unexplained. Contrary to the existing perceptions, the disparity is not due to the unequal education or employment in traditionally low-paying female occupations, as the gap emerges within the first year after graduation from college – even when women are working full time in the same fields as men – and widens during the first 10 years in the work force.

Because pay information is often confidential, it may take a long time for an employee to realize that she is experiencing compensation discrimination. And if employers are insulated from liability after 180 days, they have little incentive to correct pay discrimination that occurs. The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act which was passed in a close vote of 225 to 199 in 2007 simply re-stated the law as it has been interpreted for many years. What is noteworthy that in United Stated in 2007, 199 members of the House of Representatives voted against equal pay for equal job for all members of this society regardless of their gender. Their votes intended to deprive women of their human rights to equal pay for equal work.

Addressing such glaring inequalities, Jack Tuckner, Esq., testified at the NYC Council on the Need for Gender Pay Equity Legislation on April 17, 2008 and said “Our reactionary political environment is hostile to all progressive notions of fairness, equality and equal access to justice and power. Our most esteemed judicial tribunal, the Supreme Court, is openly contemptuous of an individual citizen’s right to speak truth to power, to question authority, to hold corporaticians accountable for their excesses, if not their crimes. As a nation, we’ve morphed from a Democracy into a Corporatocracy, as BBB’s (Big Business Behemoths), aided and abetted by our corporate media, have redistributed wealth and power upward toward itself and away from us.”

The plight of “ Equal Pay “ is part of the broader movement for equality, justice and human rights and dignity. While many EU countries who are further ahead in the path of gender equality compared to United State, however, women still struggling with the implementation of the Fair Pay Laws. Other women in Africa, Asia and Latin America are still struggling to change the discriminatory laws against women and girls in their constitution. Gender Equality is the pre- requisite of global peace, security and development. Nothing more and nothing less!

 

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