• 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!

     

  • What happened when North Carolina and Kansas Cut Taxes Like the GOP Did for the Country?

    “Research suggests the package did not stimulate the economy, certainly not enough to pay for the tax cut. This year, legislators passed a bill to largely rescind the law, saying it had not worked as intended.” – The NY Times, October 10th, 2017, referring to the outcome of Kansas tax reform

    It is interesting to learn that this scheme of giving tax breaks to the rich with the hopes of bolstering the economy has been tried recently in a couple of Red states. New York Times’ reporter Jim Tankersley wrote an October 10th story on the economic effect that this type of tax reform had on the state beginning in 2013. We also find another case clearly described by Washington Post reporter Todd Frankel in a December 3rd article on how this worked out for North Carolina who had tried a similar reform. Here is an excerpt from the Washington Post article recounting the experiences of Burglington, N.C., t-shirt factory owner, Eric Henry:

    “Conservative groups have hailed North Carolina as a model of a tax overhaul since it began slashing state corporate and individual tax rates four years ago. And one of the effort’s main architects, Thom Tillis, is now in the U.S. Senate, where early Saturday he joined 50 other Republican senators in voting for a $1.5 trillion federal tax overhaul — a plan that employs many of the same tactics already in use here [in N.C.].

    “But as Henry drove through the conservative, rural county he’s called home all his life, he had trouble seeing many benefits of the tax cut. Business was good, but it wasn’t good enough that he could give his 20 workers significant raises.

    “And there were growing worries that the lost tax revenue — estimated at $3.5 billion this year alone — was beginning to significantly hurt core public services such as schools.

    ‘I don’t know the people who this benefits,’ Henry said of the North Carolina tax cut.

    “Changing the national tax code is much different from changing a state’s code. But what’s happening today in North Carolina offers potential clues about the grand experiment with tax cuts the entire nation is close to embarking on, with Republicans appearing confident they can send final legislation to President Trump by year’s end.

    “The tax changes in North Carolina haven’t produced the fiscal calamity that led Republican legislators in Kansas this year to reverse dramatic cuts they passed a few years earlier, but nor have they produced the kind of win-for-all economic prosperity national Republicans say their effort will spur.

    “Instead, North Carolina has enjoyed the same steady growth as much of the country, making it challenging to estimate the impact of the tax cut compared with the many other factors shaping the state’s economy.”

    What has been noticed is the state’s increasing debt and the impact it’s had on schools, infrastructure, and other state-funded programs (emphasis added to some of the quotes below):

    “While North Carolina’s economy has chugged along, signs of strain on state spending have increased. The state budget has not kept pace with a growing population, said Alexandra Sirota, director of the North Carolina Budget and Tax Center, a left-leaning nonprofit.

    “’Pretty soon, we’re not going to have enough money,’ Sirota said.

    “The state legislature’s Fiscal Research Division agrees. It projects budget shortfalls of at least $1.2 billion starting in 2019.

    “The squeeze has already hit public schools.

    “In North Carolina, the state government provides the bulk of public education funding. And while the overall contribution is up, per-pupil spending, adjusted for inflation, is down. Plus, there are about 10,000 fewer public school teachers in the state, despite growing enrollment, said Mark Jewell of the North Carolina Association of Educators.

    “The school system serving Burlington is struggling, said Alamance-Burlington Schools superintendent Bill Harrison.

    Anyone claiming schools are better off after the tax cuts is ‘using smoke and mirrors,’ Harrison said.

    “Harrison rattled off a string of numbers to make his point. Funding for school supplies has dropped 20 percent, he said. His schools get 33 percent less money for textbooks now than a decade ago.

    “’I heard it every year: Why doesn’t my child have a textbook?’ Harrison said.

    “Henry’s wife, Lisa, taught preschool for children with disabilities for almost three decades. She retired in 2015 after watching several years in which state lawmakers made cuts to public schools, including by underfunding teacher pay raises.

    “’It just felt like a huge slap in the face,’ Lisa Henry said.

    “As the sun started to set, Henry drove back to his company. Just a few employees were still around. None of them said they’d noticed the state tax cuts.

    “’Other than the roads not getting taken care of,’ said Eric Michel, 33, chief logistics officer.

    And no one in the office has gotten a big pay raise since the tax cut, either.'”

    Results in the state of Kansas were even worse after its legislature voted to repeal all corporate pass-through taxes in 2012. Here is an excerpt from an October 17th, 2017 story by the New York Times:

    “The tax package reduced state revenue by nearly $700 million a year, a drop of about 8 percent, from 2013 through 2016, according to the Kansas Legislative Research Department, forcing officials to shorten school calendars, delay highway repairs and reduce aid to the poor. Research suggests the package did not stimulate the economy, certainly not enough to pay for the tax cut. This year, legislators passed a bill to largely rescind the law, saying it had not worked as intended.

    “’It caused a lot of budget instability,’ said State Senator Jim Denning, a Republican who led the effort to repeal the pass-through exemption this year. Mr. Denning, who earns pass-through income from his interest in a commercial real estate firm, said he had personally benefited from the exemption, but the state’s economy had not.

    “The pass-through exemption was responsible for $200 million to $300 million of that annual shortfall, according to budget researchers at the Tax Foundation in Washington.”

    It is difficult if not impossible to find data that will show that corporate tax cuts such as those enacted in North Carolina and now passed for the country will do anything but mirror the results found here and in Kansas. Will our politicians in Congress ultimately come to this same conclusion and vote to repeal this ill-conceived tax cut?

    For the complete story written by Washington Post contributor Todd C. Frankel, go here.