"Why in Five" - Wage Equity

Why in Five - Wage Equity

What is wage equity?

Wage equity is ending gender and racial bias in wage setting. According to a recent congressional report, a full-time female worker annually earns $10,800 less than her male counterpart, based on median annual earnings. That discrepancy can add up to nearly half a million dollars in lost wages over a career. Equal Pay Day is the date that symbolizes how far into the year women must work to earn what men earned in the previous year. It typically occurs in late March or early April.

Problems multiply in retirement. Lower career earnings result in a median retirement income of $17,400 for women aged 65 and older — 44 percent less than the $31,200 earned by men in the same age group. The result? Women aged 75 years and older are almost twice as likely to live in poverty.

Equity, in its most basic sense, is a state of “fairness,” or the access to the same opportunities.  Equality is providing everyone with the same things, and this will only work if everyone starts at the same place.  We must first ensure equity before we can begin to enjoy any semblance of equality.

Why is there a wage gap?

According to the National Committee on Pay Equity, having higher numbers of women and people of color in an occupation lowers overall pay — for example, clerical, service workers and nurses. While some wage gaps do stem from differences in education or experience, a significant portion can’t be explained away by those factors.

“Equal Pay Day” symbolizes how far into the New Year the average American woman must work to earn a wage equal to that earned the previous year by the average American man. It typically occurs in late March, early April.

How does wage equity combat poverty?

Wage equity helps workers become self-sufficient and reduces their reliance on government assistance programs. According to congressional findings, nearly 40 percent of poor working women could leave welfare programs if they received wage equity pay increases. When wages for women and people of color increase, so does their purchasing power, which strengthens the economy.

Who needs wage equity?

Since wage discrimination impacts every facet of our society, we all need wage equity. For unions, in particular, the issue is even more important because it addresses the core value of any union – fair treatment for everyone. NYSUT urges its members to encourage unity and fairness.  Some NYSUT members remain held back by unequal wages, and it is the duty of their fellow members to promote equity for all.

How can I help?

Three laws protect workers against wage discrimination. The Equal Pay Act of 1963, which prohibits unequal pay for equal or “substantially equal” work performed by men and women, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits wage discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, religion or national origin and the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act which amends Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and states that the 180-day statute of limitations for filing an equal-pay lawsuit regarding pay discrimination resets with each new paycheck affected by that discriminatory action.

However, wage discrimination laws are poorly enforced and difficult to win. Stronger legislation is needed. Urge your congressional representatives to support these bills:

  • The Paycheck Fairness Act (S.862, H.R.1619) — sponsored by Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), seeks to strengthen and update the Equal Pay Act of 1963.
  • The Fair Pay Act - Sponsored by Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), seeks to end wage discrimination in female- and minority-dominated jobs.
  • Support Fight for 15 - An international movement calling for a $15 minimum wage. #FightForFifteen
  • Paycheck Fairness Act Fact Sheet
  • Legislative Remedies to the Wage Gap
  • National Committee on Pay Equity - Equal Pay Day Kit 

Mark Your Calendar:

  • Women’s Equality Day, August 26th
  • Equal Pay Day symbolizes how far into the year women must work to earn what men earned in the previous year.

Book resources:

“Wage Theft in America: Why Millions of Working Americans Are Not Getting Paid—And What We Can Do About it” By Kim Bobo

Employing the accuracy of data and the emotion of personal accounts, this book examines the scope of wage theft in America -- and what activists, unions, policymakers, and other stakeholders are doing to stop the crisis.

“The Fight for Fifteen: The Right Wage for a Working America” By David Rolf

Combining history, economics, and commonsense political wisdom, The Fight for Fifteen makes a deeply informed case for a national $15/hour minimum wage as the only practical solution to reversing America’s decades-long slide toward becoming a low-wage nation.

“The New Prophets of Capital” By Nicole Aschoff

A skillful and scathing takedown of the new prophets of profit, from Bill Gates to Oprah Winfrey.

Film resources:

Brave New Films: Inequality Shorts

A site featuring short films that focus on the financial inequalities facing US citizens.

Lesson plan resources:

Lesson Plan: Wealth Inequality in America 

This TeachableMoment Classroom Lesson by the Morningside Center for Teaching Social Responsibility for high school students uses a 6-minute video about inequality that has gone viral on the internet to help students explore what they think about U.S. wealth distribution currently is, what they think it should be, what it actually is, and what they might do about it.

Simulation: Monster Musical Chairs 

This elementary school lesson which can be modified for older students helps teach students about economic wants and goods and why they can’t have everything they want.

Simulation: Ten Chairs of Global Inequality 

This interactive simulation can be used to dramatize the increasingly unequal distribution of wealth in the United States; it has been modified to be used with younger students.


National Committee on Pay Equity