April 17, 2012

Assembly Marks National Pay Equity Day

A Step Towards Narrowing Wage Gap is Raising the Minimum Wage

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver joined today with Assemblyman Keith Wright, chair of the Labor Committee and Assemblymember Ellen Jaffee, chair of the Taskforce on Women's Issues, to mark National Pay Equity Day by passing legislation aimed at ending discrimination in the workplace.

Almost 50 years after the passage of the Equal Pay Act and the Civil Rights Act, women, especially minority women, continue to suffer the consequences of unequal pay. Women in New York earn, on average, less than 83 cents for every dollar earned by their male counterparts. Nationally, women earn 77 cents for every dollar earned by their male counterparts.

"While women are faring better in New York in terms of earnings, it is not nearly enough. The remaining disparity has not changed in 10 years and it's time to take action to narrow that gap," said Silver. "I am pleased to join with my colleagues in the Assembly to announce measures that support wage equality for New York's working women."

"Unequal pay still exists today because jobs done predominately by women and people of color have been systematically and sometimes deliberately, undervalued in the marketplace. Women and people of color are struggling more than anyone else in this economy and are facing high levels of unemployment throughout New York State. In these trying times, fair pay for women and people of color is more relevant than ever and I am proud to say that the state Assembly has once again passed this important legislative package," said Wright.

"The facts are startling. This pay disparity affects women across all levels of education as well as vocation. Over a lifetime, the average lost wages for a working woman can range from $700,000 to $2 million," said Jaffee. "In addition to lost income, there is a significant negative impact on Social Security and pension benefits that penalizes women well past their working years."

As part of today's recognition of National Pay Equity Day, the Assembly passed four bills including the New York State Fair Pay Act (A.6130A/Wright), which prohibits employers from paying lower wages based on gender, race or national origin for work in equivalent jobs. Other measures in the package would:

"In addition to the legislation before us today, we must approve another critical piece of legislation to close the wage gap - we must raise the minimum wage," said Silver.

The Assembly Majority has made raising the minimum wage a priority this session. Silver and Wright have proposed legislation (A.9148) to raise the minimum wage in New York to $8.50 an hour and index it to inflation to ensure wages do not erode in the future. More than 55 percent of those earning less than $8.50 an hour in New York are women.

"Wage discrimination has been going on for far too long. There is no justification for this widespread pay inequity," said Assemblymember Barbara Lifton. "Government must set the standard. A comprehensive study will derive critical data that will help us evaluate our current system. This will enable us to identify equivalent values of work and begin to root out remaining disparities."

"Today, on National Pay Equity Day, we must pause to recognize how far women have come, but also recommit ourselves to the struggle for full economic equality. To be sure, women and minorities have made tremendous strides toward equality in the last 40 years. Despite that progress, however, there still remains much work to be done, particularly in the area of economic equality. Today in America, women still earn a mere 77 cents for every dollar earned by a man. It is particularly fitting that we pass my bill, A.1780A, on National Pay Equity Day, which would require that public-sector employees be paid equally for equivalent work, despite gender or minority differences. This long-overdue measure will help to put more money into the pockets of some of the most vulnerable populations in the state and propel them on a course toward greater economic independence," said Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal.