• The Story Must Be Told: Wage Disparity in the U.S.A. Affects All Women, but Latina Workers See the Widest Gap

    The Chief Executive Officers of companies in the United States earn salaries counted in the millions of dollars. Let’s take for example Robert A. Iger from Disney who receives compensation of $36.3 million per year, Indra Nooyi from PepsiCo with 31.1 million, or Jeffrey Bewkes from Time Warner, with $32.6 million a year. What do you think is the hourly wage of someone who makes $36.3 million a year? If you do a simple calculation you will discover that Mr. Iger (Disney) makes approximately $17,307 and some odd cents an hour!

    The salaries received by the heads of these well-known companies are so large, that it is hard for the average reader, man or woman worker, to visualize what the amounts represent as someone’s “take home pay.” Even more difficult would be to calculate the impact such salary would have on the ability of the average American to own a home, afford quality health insurance, or pay for college for their children without seeing them drag an enormous debt after graduation.  In the United States, Latinas and Black women workers suffer the biggest pay gaps among workers.  As a result, it is difficult for women workers in general and Latinas in particular to achieve for their families the basic components of the American Dream, even at modest levels. Pay equity is a central democratic principle supported by the rank and file, as well as by the leadership in our Democratic Party, and voters expect and deserve no less.

    Granted, we are not trying to present a false side-by-side equivalence here.  American CEOs deal with the enormity of their workplaces, commanding thousands of top and middle management personnel and millions of production workers around the country. They answer to millions of consumers and stockholders whom their companies serve. It is very important work these CEOs do. Now let’s consider, for the sake of contrast, the numbers contained in the salaries of the mentioned heads of companies, and the numbers that define the salaries of other important American workers. The salaries of hourly paid working women must be calculated within America’s economic reality, as well.   Latina workers undeniably contribute to the strength of the national economy by playing vital roles in the country’s workforce.

    In the United States Latina and Black women workers stand at the end of the line in terms of compensation for work done. The National Partnership of Women and Families published a statistical fact sheet in April 2018, illustrating the average women’s wage gap as evidence of the persistent gender wage gap, that continues to affect women and their families in the country.  Women workers of Latino/Hispanic heritage are impacted more. The numbers show that they are paid just 54 cents for every dollar paid to non-Hispanic white men. Meanwhile, “overall, women employed full time, year-round are paid 80 cents for every dollar paid to men employed full time.”

    The fact sheet also cites a publication by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, Breadwinner Mothers by Race/Ethnicity and State, stating that “more than half of Latina mothers are key breadwinners for their families” and their homes “rely heavily on their wages to make ends meet and get ahead.”

    In simpler terms, The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) documents, once again, the discriminatory wage gap. The report titled, Black and Hispanic Woman Paid Substantially Less than White Men (Gould, E., Schieder, J. March, 2017) points at a wage disparity that resulted in Black women taking home $7.63  less an hour than their white male counterparts and Latinas/Hispanic women taking $8.90 less an hour than non-Latino white workers.  The purpose of citing these reports is not to reignite the old “battle between the sexes” nor to insert a discussion about race in the middle of an economic argument. Both race and gender are topics for legitimate discussions at another time. Undoubtedly, we stand in solidarity with all men and women workers, whether white, African American, Native American, Asian, or Latino/Hispanic, all deserving pay equity for equal work performed. At the same time, there is a need to speak up to educate about and repudiate this biased wage gap affecting Latina/Hispanic working women.

    Members of professional unions, like our local Rochester Teachers Association (RTA), the statewide New York State United Teachers (NYSUT), and the United Auto Workers (my family & I included) are appropriately represented by organizations dedicated to supporting and advancing pay equity for all its affiliates. Sadly, this is not the case for far too many Latino women and women in general who work for businesses and corporations across the country. Exhibit “A” is the iconic Lilly Ledbetter, who as a supervisor for Goodyear Tires and in Alabama (1979-1998) fought wage discrimination, upon discovering she was paid less than her counterpart male co-worker while performing similar kinds of work. After a series of setbacks, her fight resulted in the signing of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the first bill signed into law by President Barack Obama in 2009.

    But the fight is not over. A most alarming reason is that Latinas in the workforce see a wage gap regardless of their educational level.  For example, a full time, year-round average female worker without a high school diploma, made 60 cents for every dollar earned by a non-Hispanic, man. In the case of Latinas with a bachelor’s degree, they earned 66.3 cents for every dollar earned by a white non-Latino male counterpart. Merely six cents more.

    A series of dates are scheduled nationally to observe “Equal Pay Days” in 2018.  It is time to participate actively in promoting these observances and advancing the cause. How? By calling our elected officials at the municipal, county, and state levels to ask of them their vocal and legislative support for such an important economic and social issue.   Women and men in our lives, let’s spread the word!

     

  • Candidate Profile: Fatimat Reid for Family Court Judge

    The American Dream is alive and well in Fatimat Reid, a candidate for Monroe County Family Court Judge, who is a prime representative of this ideal. Her unique life story began in the state of New York, where she was born. As a child, her family moved to Nigeria, where she was raised during an important period of her life. She returned to the United States and then, at the age of ten, she became the subject of a Family Court custody action and spent time in foster care. These experiences give her a special perspective on Family Court. “I understand, from first-hand experience how frightening and frustrating court proceedings can be for children and all involved, particularly for those stricken by poverty and those with immigrant identity status.”

    Not only does Ms. Reid bring significant personal experience to the judicial bench from the perspective of a child involved in a family court case, she also brings extensive professional experience. Reid has established herself in the legal community as an attorney who has broad legal experience having served private practice as well as government entities. She currently serves as Chief of Staff for the Rochester City School District (RCSD). At RCSD she supports the school district’s mission of providing quality education while promoting wellness for all children and their families in the community. Ms. Reid commented, “I am honored to work in conjunction with educators and families serving the needs of all students”

    A passion for and knowledge of the law completes an impressive professional profile for Ms. Reid. She graduated from the University at Buffalo Law School and is a member of the Monroe County Bar Association, the Rochester Black Bar Association and the Greater Rochester Association for Women Attorneys. She began her legal career as an attorney with the law firm of Davidson Fink LLP and with Wolpoff and Abramson. Most recently, she has served as a City of Rochester Municipal Attorney and as an Associate Counsel for the Rochester City School District.

    Her campaign’s Web site lists and describes numerous awards and important recognitions that Fatimat Reid has received from the community and from professional organizations in Monroe County.

    When asked her perspective about current situations, such as the treatment many children and adolescents are experiencing at the U.S. southern border and other cases involving child abuse in Monroe County, she said that she will “adhere to and apply the law as it relates to each case that arrives in front of her with fairness and expediency.” In doing so, she always prioritizes “the well-being of children.”

    Reid also referenced the principles contained in the United Nations Declaration of Rights of the Child, adopted by the UN in 1989 and brought into force in September of 1990. That universal proclamation establishes the rights of the child with the goal that each child “may have a happy childhood and enjoy for his/her own good and for the good of society the rights to freedoms.” This document enshrines universal principles of justice that call “upon parents, men and women as individuals, voluntary organizations, local authorities and governments to recognize these rights and to strive for their observance,” concluded the judicial candidate for Family Court in Monroe County.

    Experience, fairness, and knowledge of the law: Fatimat Reid has it all!

  • Infiltrating American Democracy: Team Watch or Team Defend?

    By Lottie Gonzalez-Habes

    In New York state, and in Monroe county’s towns, suburbs, and cities, we are witnessing events coming from multiple fronts signaling that America’s democracy is being infiltrated. The ultimate goal is to weaken core beliefs we have established as a nation. The country, granted, is an imperfect union, but it remains a world model for free societies. Infiltration has begun with subtle messaging from bad “actors” entertaining audiences in American living rooms. It has spread, unintentionally, with help from small town radio and television outlets, and it has reached high pitch with the popularity of “people friendly,” technology-driven social media platforms. When voices dare to publicly express an opinion about these infiltration efforts aloud, gullible partisans and the opposition brush concerns aside by labeling it “exaggeration,” “hyperbole,” and other dismissive terms.

    History and writers teach us that language has been a most effective weapon when enemies of democracy have attempted and succeeded in subverting societies in other parts of the world. Our American principles of freedom of press, transparency, government accountability, participation, and justice for all peoples are undergoing a brutal attack. The attack, however, is delivered with “soft salesman” tactics. The attack on democracy is reaching American audiences using all the traditional propaganda tools: repetition, smiles, big lies, humor, and appearance of strength, as well as appeals that exploit emotions and grievances some may feel. If this sounds familiar to you as a reader, if we think that what we see happening has happened at another time, or if what we hear taking place even vaguely reminds us of high school level history classes, it is because all of it has happened before in other places to people around the world. Why then doubt that similar infiltration efforts are taking root in our own county, cities, and rural and urban places?

    History confirms that a new version of the same ideas (which have destroyed freedoms around the world before) are being introduced in the United States. In 1944 Hideki Tojo, Prime Minister of Japan and Minister of War appropriated powers and promised a “new order in Asia” with his aggressive policies. And never forget how Goebbels, Nazi Minister of Propaganda (1933) believed that “people never rule themselves” and that “rank and file are usually more primitive than we imagine . . . Propaganda must therefore always be essentially simple and repetitious”.

    Most valued American principles are being undermined in front of our eyes by Trump’s Republican administration now in power: respect for public service, the right to unionize and organize, public schools, the right to vote and be elected in free elections, having a free and independent press, national security and public safety agencies, equal protection under the law, environmental protections – all are being undermined while we watch. Examples of recent attacks and the dismantling of important American principles are documented and published in local and national media but are too often to be dismissed.

    Are we choosing to be spectators or are we going to be defenders? All Democrats, whether we lean or consider ourselves left, centrist, or conservative, must stand in indivisible coalition acting locally to defend ourselves, the nation, its citizens, and those democratic principles we strongly hold.

    What can we do?

    Here in Rochester it’s time to choose a team. I am not talking about voting for a candidate running for office or choosing a campaign in which to volunteer. The decision is larger. We are called to decide whether we will be spectators on Team Watch, viewing a “reality” spectacle courtesy of Trump’s Republican broadcasting cronies, or are we going to work, resist and act locally in meaningful ways to advance democracy and defeat its enemies. It’s on us: Team Defend!

  • Candidate Profile: Zuleika Shepard for Family Court Judge

    It has become a Democratic mantra to say, “ this is the year of the woman,” mainly due to the significant number of female candidates around the country who have decided to throw their hats in the ring and run for public office at all levels of government .  Whether for local, town, city, county or state office, women are answering the call of the nation for public service.  Monroe county is no exception.

    Today we are proud to put the spotlight on Zuleika Shepard, a Monroe County Democratic Committee nominee for Family Court judge.

    As a Rochester native, Ms. Shepard is one of our hometown candidates running for the important county Family Court judicial bench, bringing with her firsthand knowledge of the community she seeks to represent. That background, combined with her training and professional experience, make her an exceptionally well-qualified candidate for the position as Family Court judge.

    Ms. Shepard  currently works as Deputy County Attorney in the Monroe County Law Department in the Family Court Unit.  Here, her passion for the law, safety and order, as these relate to all families of Monroe County, is witnessed in action in Shepard’s daily work, which includes numerous appearances in Family Court. Prior to that, she was an Assistant District Attorney in Monroe County. She has also operated her own private practice, and she was  Staff Attorney for the Capital District Women’s Bar Association Legal Project in Albany, repesenting women in domestic violence cases in Family Court concentrating on custody, visitation, and child support cases.

    She acknowledges the historic nature of her candidacy for a judicial position in Monroe County,  where an African American woman has never been elected to a family court judgeship. She knows she brings uniqueness and a diversity of perspectives to the bench.  She has observed how “ families, regardless of income levels, ethnicity , cultural, religious or social backgrounds  aspire to enjoy  a safe , happy life, and they wish to offer their members, to the best of their abilities, a supportive community in which to develop  and thrive, safeguarded  by equal treatment under the law.”  Zuleika Shepard pledges that the principle of applying the law to the facts “will continue to guide my work as Monroe County Family Court Judge – as it always has – if I am so honored with the people’s vote this November.”

    Colleagues, incumbent  leaders, citizens, neighbors of all political stripes, as well as new prospective voters who come in contact with and meet Zuleika Shepard, are immediately drawn to the story of this hometown woman.  This professional lawyer is also a karate champion and a black belt instructor who has served her community as a mentor of young  women 13-18 years of age.  From her adolescent years as a Wilson Magnet High School student in the Rochester City School District, to her  time at Ithaca College, where she graduated Magna Cum Laude,  through her distinguished completion of a J.D. at Hofstra University Law School (2007), Zuleika Shepard has exhibited qualities that are foundational  for those who aspire to serve on a judicial bench – empathy for others, patience,  professional and personal ethics, the ability to communicate, forebearance under demanding circumstances, and extensive knowledge of the law.

    Monroe County voters, we present to you Zukeika Shepard for the position of family Court Judge.  Judge for yourself!

  • Educating with Compassion, Empathy and High Standards

    “Democracy has to be born anew every generation, and education is its midwife.”
    – John Dewey, School & Society, SUNY Oswego

    There is an all-too-common trend to magnify ailments that often impact public education in many cities throughout the U.S.A. Rather than counterbalance those negative perceptions by spotlighting areas of success, which are also happening around us, detractors of public education insist on piling on. Hence, we resist! Public schools continue to fulfill the valiant role of combating inequality by delivering services and offering opportunities to all children in our communities.

    Rochester city schools have been at the forefront of one such positive initiative for the past few months. Since the devastation caused by recent hurricanes which ravaged the Caribbean, Rochester Schools have opened their doors to the children of hundreds of families who were displaced from their homes and their towns and who are now arriving in our communities. Almost 400 students have already completed the application, language assessment, and enrollment processes and are continuing their education at one of Rochester’s public schools.

    Upon arrival, these families with children ranging from first grade age through twelfth grade, contact relatives or friends in Rochester or seek assistance directly from community agencies such as Ibero-American Action League or the Catholic Family, among others. Consequently, these families and their school age children are referred to the school district to begin enrollment. The process of normalcy for the children begins with the welcoming staff of the Rochester City School District’s (RCSD) Equity and Placement Department. RCSD teachers, social workers, counselors, and office staff join forces to provide professional assistance to the families until the students are finally enrolled in a school. The placement in schools or programs is far from arbitrary. In keeping with New York State instructional standards and to maximize opportunities for continuity and success, the children take the New York State Identification Test for English Language Learners (NYSITELL). This assessment measures levels of language proficiency, giving guidance to assist in the process of appropriate grade level placement or program of instruction selection for each student.

    Similarly to the assistance provided by the RCSD, educators who are members of AFT (American Federation of Teachers) are lending a hand to assist teachers living in hurricane ravaged areas, who, like their students, saw their homes destroyed or damaged by the potency of the weather events. The American Federation of Teachers, along with AFL-CIO and other labor organizations, are working in the charitable initiative named “Operation Agua.” They are purchasing water filters and traveling to Puerto Rico to bring water purification methods to families in communities in need of clean safe water.  Public education is the thread that connects these acts of selfless solidarity.

    We can all be inspired by the words of Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, “Don’t let fear stop you. Don’t give up because you are paralyzed by insecurity or overwhelmed by the odds. Understand that failure is a process in life, that only in trying can you enrich yourself and have the possibility of moving forward. The greatest obstacle in life is fear and giving up because of it.” (AZ Quotes)