The fight for wage equality has been ongoing for over 50 years, originally addressed with the Equal Pay Act of 1963, signed into law by then-President John F. Kennedy. But here we are, year 2015, and women are still being discriminated against. On Sunday, Oscar winner Patricia Arquette took the opportunity at the Academy Awards to address the issue:
“To every woman who gave birth to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else’s equal rights. It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all and equal rights for women in the United States of America.”
Taking it a step further, state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, announced her Senate Bill 358, the California Fair Pay Act, which will strengthen California’s equal pay laws to ensure that women are paid equally for work that is comparable to that of their male colleagues and that women do not face retaliation if they discuss or ask about pay at work, according to a press release recently sent out by the California Legislative Women’s Caucus. The harsh reality of the situation, though, is that this is critical to women’s success, especially when it comes to minority women.
Noreen Farrell, executive director of Equal Rights Advocates, put things into perspective:
“Women continue to make less than men for doing similar work. In 2013, a woman in California working full time made a median 84 cents to every dollar a man earned, according to Equal Rights Advocates, a national civil rights organization based in San Francisco. This gap is significantly greater for women of color. Latinas in California make only 44 cents for every dollar a white man makes, the most significant Latina wage gap in the nation. As a group, women who are employed full time in California lose approximately $34 billion every year due to the wage gap.”
“Equal pay for equal work should be a no-brainer. Fair pay is good for women, their households, and the California economy,” she continued.
We fully agree. The fact that there is still such obvious disparity in pay reflects how poorly we treat each other. We stand behind Jackson’s effort and those who fiercely advocate for equal pay, including the Lilly Ledbetters of this country. Ledbetter took her fight all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court and lost. The 19 years she spent making less than her male counterparts at an Alabama tire factory, however, were not in vain; President Barack Obama signed into law the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act in 2009, which tightened a loophole when it comes to lawsuits over discriminatory pay — employers are no longer protected because they kept information over pay rates secret.
Fair pay is the right thing to do. It’s the moral thing to do. It’s the law. The fact that this is still an issue is reprehensible.