Working women are shorted 23 cents for every dollar a man makes. On its own, 23 cents doesn’t sound like much. Sure it’s wrong that women still are paid only 77 cents on the man’s dollar. But what can 23 cents buy?
How about a nice house? A private college education for four kids? Twelve brand new Mustang convertibles? Forty-three years of food for a family of four?
Over 40 years of work, a typical woman working full time would lose a mind-blowing$463,320 to the pay gap.
Today is Equal Pay Day—a woman would have to have worked work until April 14 to get a full year’s worth of a man’s 2014 pay.
Although equal pay has been the law of the land for more than 50 years, if recent trends continue it will take another 50 years for women to reach pay equity with men, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research reports.
One of the reasons women fare so badly on the pay front is because we disproportionately work in minimum wage jobs—and the value of the minimum wage has failed to keep up with inflation or with workers’ increasing productivity. Low-income working women are working harder and harder, but the buying power of those minimum wage paychecks has been falling behind for decades.
Keep in mind, on equal pay day (and every day), it’s not just women or low-wage workers who need a raise. All working people do! There’s plenty of money out there—it’s just not going into the pockets of the people whose work creates profits and wealth for businesses and CEOs. In fact, since 1978 CEO pay has ballooned by almost 1,000%, while a typical worker saw a paltry 10% increase.
A range of policy choices would raise wages—from increasing the minimum wage and enacting earned sick leave laws to making sure people are paid for the overtime they work. But the best way to raise wages is by using our collective voices. Union contracts fight discrimination and provide transparency about who gets paid what, preventing hidden gender bias.
This year, 5 million working women and men are using their collective voices to bargain with their employers for better pay and working conditions. Five million! What they win at the bargaining table will benefit all of us, putting upward pressure on wages across the board.
Raising wages will ensure that all workers are able to support themselves and their families and live in dignity. That’s something to fight for.