Assemblyman Andrew Raia (R,I,C-East Northport) voted Wednesday, April 29, to approve a series of bills designed to improve working conditions for women and punish discriminatory practices such as the so-called “gender gap” in wages, described as attempts by an employer to pay a female employee less than her male counterpart for the same work. Another piece of legislation formally establishes August 26 as Women’s Equality Day. All of the measures passed the New York State Assembly.
The gender gap bills took comparable work into account in trying to eliminate inequities in pay. Under the provisions of the individual legislation, “comparable worth” is measured by skill, effort and responsibility normally required in the performance of work and the conditions under which this work is usually performed. For example, some school nurses and secretaries were found to be earning less than male employees engaged in maintenance and groundskeeper tasks. This Assembly legislation would not, however, lower the wages of existing employees in order to achieve equality in pay. The bills have been referred to the state Senate, where they currently await a vote in committee.
Raia also voted to commemorate August 26 as Women’s Equality Day, a date to honor the passage of the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution. The amendment guaranteed women the right to vote after Tennessee became the last of the necessary 36 states to ratify it. The deciding vote was cast by twenty-four-year-old Harry Burn, the youngest member of the Tennessee State Legislature that year. The story goes that before Burn made his fateful decision he was opening his mail and came across a letter written by his mother. The letter read: “I have been watching to see how you stood but have noticed nothing yet…. Don’t forget to be a good boy and … vote for suffrage.”
“Women have come a long way since 1920 – they have excelled in business, politics, sports, journalism, the arts and every other conceivable area in which we measure modern achievement,” said Raia. “My own mother serves proudly as clerk for the Town of Huntington. Yet obstacles still remain. The gender gap in wages has lasted into the 21st century; its long, ignominious record needs to end. I urge my colleagues in the New York State Senate to immediately pass legislation eliminating salary discrimination for private- and public-sector employees and act to honor those trail-blazing women who fought for civil rights in the face of tremendous odds by officially approving Women’s Equality Day. We must act now.”