Mon, May

Payday: Was It As Good for You as It was for Me?


JUST SAYIN’-Women have for years been fighting for equal treatment between the sexes—from the Stone Age when they had no rights and (as we often imagine) were pulled by their hair to the “man cave”... to more modern times when they were fighting for the franchise and, now, battling for equal pay for equal work.  Is this struggle for parity ever going to see the light at the end of the tunnel? 

When women have no input over their work hours, when they find themselves powerless under  employers who treat them unfairly, when they are subject to retribution and retaliation for even approaching their bosses for a semblance of fair treatment on the job, then “they have no control over their own lives.”  Think of women, like Anita Hill, who are perhaps too fearful to make any noise about these inequities because they also depend on their employers to keep their jobs or to write references for promotions within or for a job elsewhere and cannot afford poor evaluations. 

The facts are loud and clear:  

● 46% of women have no input into their schedules
● 70% are subject to work-hour fluctuations and uncertainties
● these same women cannot count on a regular weekly or bi-weekly salary
● they cannot determine a fixed schedule at home to care for their families and feed them healthy, on-time meals
● they cannot save up for emergency needs for their spouses, children, or even themselves 

Places like Walmart and Popeye’s and other fast-food establishments have exhibited great reticence in treating their workers fairly.  Walmart makes a yearly profit of $16 billion or more and yet cannot see fit to pay their workers (a preponderance of women) a fair wage.  They are far more beholden to the shareholders than to the millions of workers who are responsible for making their enormous profits in the first place. They will not provide them with regular schedules but will retaliate against them for asking for reasonable work remedies. 

I personally know a number of Walmart workers who have had hours cut.  They cannot get regular schedules by which they can determine child-care needs or attend classes for advancement.  It is these women against whom there have been various kinds of retaliation, such as being fired for demonstrating or simply speaking up. 

Back in 1938 the Fair Labor Standards Act was passed and amended in 1963 (Equal Pay Act under President Kennedy).  The 1963 Act stated unequivocally that thereafter it would be “illegal to pay different wages to men and women if they perform equal work in the same workplace.”   Obviously, too many employers have managed to find end-runs around this policy and have virtually disregarded it without being penalized for so-doing. 

Years later, the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act (2009) was enacted to allow a person (most usually women) to be able to file a grievance of pay disparity within 180 days of the last time the employer acted unfairly (if the employee finds out that she has been receiving lesser pay for the same job at the same place where men get paid more, she can file within 6 months of the time when she learned of that infraction). 

We have all heard of the 77 cent salary discrepancy between men and women in general, but did you also know that Black women earn 68 cents on the dollar and Latinas only 58 cents?  These disparities can no longer be ignored or brushed aside.  We are all affected by such wage discrimination: 

● unequal pay affects family security and ultimately slows the speed of economic recovery for the nation as a whole
● it is harder for women to pay for education, childcare, and healthcare
● the nation loses considerable tax revenue that could be gained through increased numbers of working people who pay their taxes
● this tax money could pay for infrastructure and other necessities, while creating more jobs and reducing the need for safety-net outlays that would otherwise be required for the working poor 

Can you believe that there used to be written policy by which a number of thriving companies could “differentiate” among the various “classes” of employees?  Examples abound:  

● women could not be hired as technicians because they would not know how to use tools (refuting such thought . . . remember those courageous and heroic World War II Rosie the Riveters who saved us as they served on the assembly lines)
● no Black person was to interact with customers
● Christian men would get better training (and pay) than Jewish men
● men and women would be put on distinctly different career paths within the company 

This past April, President Obama signed a “mini Paycheck Fairness Act” for federal employees —a good start and example for the rest of American employers, yet this act does not address the remainder of the women who are suffering under a substantial pay differential and are often too scared to report it. 

Consequently, House members George Miller of California and Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut have recently introduced a “new” bill, the 2014 Paycheck Fairness Act (supported by the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union) which would expand remedies that victims can use to rectify the wrongs inflicted on them.  This bill has failed more than once when previously introduced because of conservative Republican opposition in both Houses; hopefully, history will not repeat itself. 

Whereas the 1978 Federal Employees Flexible (40 hours within a week) and Compressed (80 hours within a two-week period) Work Schedules Act applies only to federal employees, the Miller/DeLauro bill (if passed by both Houses) would essentially extend to all other workers.  

We need to let our House members know exactly how much we support such legislation.  I repeat, is the struggle for parity ever going to see the light of day?  We can make this happen! 

As has been stated so many times before, “When women win, we all win!” 

Just sayin’.


(Rosemary Jenkins is a Democratic activist and chair of the Northeast Valley Green Alliance. Jenkins has written Leticia in Her Wedding Dress and Other Poems, A Quick-and-Easy Reference to Correct Grammar and Composition and Vignettes for Understanding Literary and Related Concepts.  She also writes for CityWatch.)







Vol 12 Issue 62

Pub: Aug 1, 2014


Get The News In Your Email Inbox Mondays & Thursdays