Equal Pay Day at City Hall

Council member Darlene Mealy, co-chair of Women’s Caucus says, “We all know that women are fantastic leaders and amazing workers. It’s high time our salaries caught up.”
Photo by Tequila Minsky

New York State Assembly women colleagues with women from New York City Council rallied at City Hall on Equal Pay Day, April 14, to remind the public of the income gap between men and women and the importance of wage equality.

Assemblywoman Michele R. Titus (Queens-District 31) has introduced the New York Equal Pay Bill (A6075/S1) that will coming up for a vote in Albany at the end of April. (In January, the Senate passed a separate similar bill). If approved, it will go to Governor Cuomo to be signed into law.

Council Member Elizabeth Crowley (Queens) is introducing a similar bill in City Council.

With them stood an assemblage of advocates working together to accelerate economic equality for New York’s women. They all wore red to signify that “women were still in the red.”

During the program some speakers beseechingly asked the gathering of electeds, community leaders and groups, “What do we want?” They all vigorously responded, “Equal pay!” Asked again, “When do we want it?” In unison they responded, “Now!”

Recognizing that while there has been some progress in pay equity over the decades, there is still a long way to go. President Kennedy signed an Equal Pay Act in 1963 when women earned 59 cents to a man’s dollar; in 2015, women earn 78 cents to a man’s dollar.

Commenting, Martha Kamber, director of the YWCA in Brooklyn and recent recipient of a Shirley Chisholm Award, is adamant, “In 2015, it’s shameful. That drops to 66 cents for African American women and 55 cents for Latinas.” She further elaborates that, “Twelve million children in the U.S. are being raised by single mothers, 45 percent of whom are living below the poverty line. If women get equal pay that affects millions.”

She mentioned that this day’s NYTimes wrote that there is no excuse for pay differentials except for simply one thing: discrimination.

City Council Women’s Caucus Co-Chair Elizabeth Crowley spoke how companies need to disclose how many women are on their boards and are executive staff.

While the women present did not need to be reminded, her Co-Chair Darlene Mealy underscored, “We all know that women are fantastic leaders and amazing workers. It’s high time our salaries caught up.”

Laurie Cumbo (City Council Women Issues Committee Chair) relayed how some companies forbid the discussion of salaries. How can you possibly know if there is wage parity if you can’t discuss your wages with co-workers? “Workplace secrecies should be outlawed.”

“There is no silver bullet but there is something collectively we can do,” said Public Advocate Letitia James who also spoke of the feminization of poverty, reiterating how the pace of change is far too slow.

Towering Robert Cornegy — the lone male representative from City Council present (District 36, Bed-Stuy, northern Crown Heights) — stood among those showing support. Why was he there? “I have two daughters, ages 15 and 10,” he told Caribbean Life. “I’m telling them, they can do whatever they want to do. But, it’s not the whole truth, because of pay inequity.” With sincerity he continued, “In communities of color, women have always been head of households. I need to fight for women for equal pay.” He mentioned how he is in City Council’s “Men Who Get It Caucus.” “We stand with women,” he said.

The passage of the New York Equal Pay Bill will outlaw wage secrecy policies and strengthen the enforcement of equal pay laws and discourage employers from unfair pay practices by increasing damages.

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