By: Sara Brown/TRT Assistant Editor—
Some lawmakers in Massachusetts are trying to combat the gender wage gap in the state.
A bill was filed by Rep. Jay Livingstone and Sen. Patricia Jehlen called An Act to Establish Pay Equity. According to the bill, in Massachusetts, women earn 80 percent of what their male counterparts do. The bill is backed by the Equal Pay Coalition along with several other groups in the state. According to the coalition, the bill would close the wage gap by establishing new rules regarding pay transparency. The changes would allow employees to discuss their salaries with other co-workers without risk of termination, require employers to publicly advertise the minimum that an available job would offer, and prohibit employers from requiring applicants to provide salary history during the hiring process without an employee’s written authorization.
Women make up almost half the workforce and lose a combined total of approximately $12,239,814,352 annually due to the wage gap according to the Equal Pay Coalition.
“Everyone deserves equal pay for the same amount of work,” Mass NOW volunteer Jenna Connolly said as to why she supports the bill. “If you put in the same amount of work, you deserve to be paid the same.” Mass NOW is the Massachusetts Chapter of the National Organization for Women, NOW. Mass NOW works to advance the equal status of women.
According to the Equal Pay Coalition, African American women earn 66 cents for every dollar earned by men and Latina women earn 54 cents for every dollar earned by men. Women are not the only ones affected by the pay discrepancy. The Coalition’s report findings also state that Black and African American workers earn only 78 cents for every dollar earned by white men. Hispanic and Latino workers earn only 72 centers for every dollar earned by white men.
The pay disparity for women of color has not gone unnoticed by Former owner of Spanish publication, La Prensa, Natalia Muñoz, who supports the bill.
“For starters, women of color would begin earning about 50 percent more than they currently make, so that’s tangible progress you can see in your paycheck,” she said. “How has this become acceptable? I think we, as women, internalize a lot of oppression.”
Senate President Stan Rosenberg says he supports pay equality as well.
“When women don’t make the same amount, it becomes an economic strain on families,” Rosenberg said. “This is especially true for households run by single mothers.”
According to Rosenberg, women make up 62 percent of the state’s work force that earn minimum wage. Rosenberg also believes the pay discrepancy prevents women from saving enough money for their retirement.
“People think it just impacts them right then and there but it has lasting impacts over a course of a woman’s lifetime,” he said.
In fact, the gender pay gap increases with age. According to the Coalition, it jumps from 10 percent to 22 percent when women reach their mid-thirties. [pullquote]According to Rosenberg, women make up 62 percent of the state’s work force that earn minimum wage. Rosenberg also believes the pay discrepancy prevents women from saving enough money for their retirement. [/pullquote]
Connolly believes one of the most important aspects of the bill is the pay transparency allowing employees to talk to their co-workers about salaries without the repercussion of being terminated.
“People shouldn’t be fired for discussing salaries,” Connolly said. “That doesn’t seem fair to me.”
The bill would also require employers to post the minimum pay and prohibits them from paying wages less than what is advertised.
“I have heard some criticism about this aspect of the bill. People say if the minimum salary is posted, then people won’t apply to [certain types of] jobs,” Connolly said. “I don’t think that would happen. If anything, I think this would allow people to know what they should be paid for the type of work they are doing.”
The Senate President believes it has taken so long for women to be paid equally because of outdated views of women in the workforce.
“You hear that they come in and out of the workforce to raise families so they don’t have as much experience as men do or that they are not as productive as men,” said Rosenberg. “I think those are pretty hollow arguments.”
The bill has until July 21st to be passed. Until then, Muñoz encourages everyone to write their senator in support of the bill.
“We all have work to do,” said Munoz. “That means writing elected officials asking them, ‘What are you doing to persuade your colleagues to vote for the Equal Pay Bill?’ To our elected progressive officials, I say, ‘It is not enough to stand with me; you are paid to move mountains in Congress. You get paid very well and have the very best health insurance, so end this canard that your hands are tied and do something. People’s lives are on the line.’”