• 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!