WLP’s Remarks at Today’s Equal Pay Day Rally in Harrisburg

Today is Equal Pay Day, the day of the year that women–on average–have to work to catch up with their white male counterparts’ earnings the previous year.

We are in Harrisburg at the State Capitol right now with our partners in the Pennsylvania Campaign for Women’s Health, a collaboration of more than 55 local, state and national organizations calling for commonsense policy solutions to improve women’s health and economic security in Pennsylvania. We’re are pleased to be here alongside equal pay champions in the Pennsylvania Legislature, including Rep. Donna Bullock, Rep. Brian Sims, Rep. Tina Davis, Rep. Maria Donatucci, and Sen. Anthony Williams.

WLP Managing Attorney Terry Fromson just spoke at the rally. These are her remarks:

Good morning. I am managing attorney of the WLP, a public interest law center dedicated to advancing the status and rights of women, and I represent the national Equal Pay Today! Campaign here in Pennsylvania.

Making equal pay a reality for PA women is and must be a high priority. Pennsylvania adopted an Equal Pay Act in 1959.

Sixty years later, it is clear it has failed us.

In fact, Pennsylvania’s equal pay act was weakened less than a decade after it was adopted to reduce the number of employees it applies to.Our equal pay law only applies to a small number of Pennsylvanians, limited as it is to specific types of employees like “farm labor on small farms,” “employment in public amusements” and “seamen on foreign vessels.”

What good is a law if it hardly applies to anyone?

In the last decade the wage gap has barely changed. At the rate we’re going, it will take a shockingly long time to achieve equal pay. Pennsylvania women, on average will not earn equal pay until 2068.

This is bad enough, but when you look at the time it will take women of color to get there, we are talking in the hundreds of years. To be exact, without closing the loopholes in current law, it will take 107 years for African American women to achieve equal pay.

It will take a whopping 231 years for Hispanic women to achieve equal pay, in the year 2248. Something is seriously wrong with a law that allows this to happen.

Our state equal pay act will only work for us if it is amended to:

  • Apply to all Pennsylvanians
  • Allow only differences in pay that are based on factors that:
    • Are not based on sex discriminatory pay from your last job.
    • Are job related to the position in question
    • Are necessary for the business
    • And Protect employee sharing of pay information, so women know when they are being discriminated against.

We also need to address other factors that contribute to women’s unequal pay:

  • Eliminate the pregnancy penalty by providing pregnant and nursing women with accommodations that allow them to stay on the job instead of forcing them to leave
  • Provide working parents with paid leave to care for themselves and family members.
  • Women suffer wage penalties because of sex stereotypes about pregnancy and family responsibilities
  • We also need to raise the minimum wage
  • Two-thirds of minimum wage workers are women and they don’t earn a living wage.

These policy changes are essential for women’s economic security so that:

  • Women don’t have to live in poverty.
  • Women, the sole breadwinners in many households, can feed, house, and care for their families
  • Women don’t end up short-changed by $430,000 at the end of our lives
  • Women don’t have to work 10 more years than men to earn the same amount of money.

I truly believe we can win this fight. Good legislation has been drafted and introduced in both houses of the Pennsylvania General Assembly to fix our laws. Advocates, including myself, have testified in support of these policy solutions. The Pennsylvania Campaign for Women’s Health, a collaboration of more than 55 local, state and national organizations working to improve women’s health and economic security in our state, has made equal pay a top priority.

All we need is for you to speak up, demand equal pay for equal work in Pennsylvania, and don’t let them ignore us!

The Women’s Law Project is the only public interest law center in Pennsylvania devoted to advancing the rights of women and girls.

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About womenslawproject

The Women's Law Project creates a more just and equitable society by advancing the rights and status of all women throughout their lives. To this end, we engage in high-impact litigation, advocacy, and education.
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