By Steve Mosco
In order to start the state in the direction of pay equality, state Assemblyman Mike Miller (D-Woodhaven) announced a legislative package that would work to end wage discrimination statewide. The legislation was accompanied by a resolution proclaiming April 17 as Equal Pay Day in the state.
“Our state has historically set the standard for equality in this nation, and in the year 2012 it is simply unacceptable that many New Yorkers are not earning equal pay for equal work,” said Miller.
To discuss the matter further, Miller sat down with Carmella Marrone, executive director and founder of Women & Work, a female empowerment program at Queens College. Marrone met with Miller to discuss the obstacles women face in the workplace and at home.
“We first looked at equal pay when we passed the Civil Rights Act in the 1960s, yet 50 years later we’re still sitting here talking about it,” said Marrone. “Men are not the only breadwinners in a home now. Many of the women I work with are the sole earners in their family.”
In her Women & Work program, Marrone helps female victims of domestic abuse re-enter the workforce with job training and the emotional support to get back their confidence.
But Marrone believes these women must earn on a par with their male counterparts.
“We cannot wait another 50 years for a change in how we treat women in the workplace,” she said. “When we change the lives of women, we change the lives of families and the community.”
The legislation introduced by Miller would make it easier to enforce equal pay regulations, while establishing a state policy of setting salaries based on comparable work. The bill would enact the New York State Fair Pay Act to address and enforce pay equity; establish a state policy of equal pay for similar work regardless of sex, race or national origin; and implement a state policy that compensates employees in state service equally for work of comparable value.
Miller noted that women make 83 cents for every dollar paid to men in New York, amounting to an annual gap of close to $8,700 between men and women working in the state.
“Implementing pay equity would ensure that all workers, regardless of sex, race or national origin, are paid at the same rate for the same work,” Miller said. “Jobs should be evaluated to determine what is comparable and a fixed pay rate must be set based on the skill, effort, responsibility and education required to perform the job.”
According to Miller, New York women lose out on $24 billion each year as a result of the wage gap. The assemblyman said equal pay would translate to more money for food, bills, gasoline and spending money.
Miller is also attending public hearings seeking to raise minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.50 per hour. Miller said raising the minimum wage would have a positive and lasting effect on the state’s economy.
“Increasing New Yorkers’ purchasing power will have substantial short- and long-term benefits, including giving a much-needed boost to New York City’s economy,” he said.
Reach reporter Steve Mosco by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4546.