Still Striving for Equal Pay
April 10, 2018
Today is Equal Pay Day and it marks another reminder that the vestiges of “separate and unequal” persist.
Last week thousands of advocates across the country joined together to commemorate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, on the 50th anniversary of his assassination. Upon reflection, despite the progression of political and economic gains by many women and people of color over the past 50 years, today’s issues of racial, gender and economic inequality have little variance from the issues that similarly unified those who marched alongside Dr. King 50 years ago.
For women, especially women of color, the journey for equal justice and opportunity is long and arduous. Women make just 80 cents for every dollar a man does. African American, Latina, and Native women are the most disadvantaged by the gender wage gap because they earn the least of all women– between 56 cents to 63 cents for every dollar earned by a white man.
Furthermore, in 4 out of 10 households with children, women are the primary or sole breadwinner in their household, yet many of these women are employed by companies and organizations that penalize them for being a working woman. Women of color in particular, are traditionally more likely to have caretaking responsibilities for young children, spouses, and aging parents and face greater barriers to sustaining employment. Without mandated paid family and medical leave benefits, women must decide whether it’s more affordable to take a loss in wages in order to have a baby or care for themselves, a sick child, or relative.
The United States is the only industrialized nation that does not provide universal paid leave benefits despite technological advances that have revolutionized the way we connect at home and in the workplace. The reality is women are here to stay in the workplace. Yet, laws and policies that govern worker pay and benefits promote a time-warped, second-class society. Women who do the same work as men, must be afforded equal pay. The doctrine of separate and unequal must be laid to rest. As people of faith, we bear the burden of being intolerant and outraged by systemic efforts to divide us and are called to work for justice.