August 23 is recognized by advocates for workplace equality as Equal Pay Day for African-American/Black Women.
Please join us at 3PM in the Caucus Room in City Hall, Philadelphia as we engage in a roundtable discussion on equal pay for Black women in Pennsylvania co-hosted by Rep. Donna Bullock and the Women’s Law Project.
The roundtable will feature Rep. Donna Bullock, Rep. Tonyelle Cook-Artis, Rep. Brian Sims, and Brenda Shelton-Dunston of the Philadelphia Black Women’s Health Alliance.
What that means is that it is the day of the year that, on average, a Black woman must work in order to earn the amount a non-Hispanic white man earns in a similar job the year before. Advocates use this day to highlight the existence of simultaneous gender and racial pay gaps.
In other words, the double pay gap.
These pay gaps are a hazard to the economic security and health of families in Pennsylvania. As the number of American households where a woman is the sole or primary breadwinner continues to rise, Black women are more likely than their white counterparts to be breadwinners for their families.
Unequal pay is particularly severe problem in Pennsylvania. Without corrective policy intervention, Pennsylvania women are not on track to earn equal pay until 2072.
Some of the practices that perpetuate unequal pay are overt discrimination such as less pay for the same job, while other practices are more subtle, or systemic, such as:
Job segregation: Stereotypes lead to women being segregated into female-dominated, low-wage jobs and the minimum wage has been suppressed. In Pennsylvania, the minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, the lowest permitted by federal law. Women make up nearly 2/3 minimum wage workers. Bills to raise the minimum wage have been neglected in Harrisburg.
Retaliation against workers for discussing pay: Employers with policies preventing employees from sharing pay information keep women in the dark about pay differences, limiting their ability to negotiate for higher pay and to enforce their rights under the equal pay laws.
Pay reductions due to pregnancy and caregiving responsibilities: The United States is the only developed nation in the world that provides zero weeks of paid family leave. Pregnant women are all too often forced to choose between following their doctor’s orders to maintain a healthy pregnancy and earning a paycheck. Pennsylvania lacks basic statewide workplace protections for pregnant women. When women return to work after childbirth—often too quickly—they face challenges continuing to breastfeed because of inadequate accommodations for workers who need to pump milk.
Wage theft: Being paid less than the minimum wage, being shorted hours, being forced to work off the clock, not being paid overtime, and not being paid at all are pervasive practices across many industries. Women, especially immigrant women in low-wage jobs, are often the hardest hit by wage theft. Wage theft is rampant in Pennsylvania, costing low-wage workers $32 million in lost earnings weekly.
The Women’s Law Project is the only public interest law center in Pennsylvania devoted to advancing the rights of women and girls.