In the News
The Island Now: Rice, Israel renew calls for equal pay
By Noah Manskar
After decades of activism and the passage of multiple federal laws, local and national leaders are still advocating for equal pay for equal work.
U.S. representatives Steve Israel and Kathleen Rice appeared with leaders of local women’s groups in Manhasset on Thursday to call for the closure of the national gender-based wage gap and declare April 12 “Equal Pay Day.”
The fact that women continue to be collectively paid less than men for the same work is not only “immoral” or “unjust,” Israel said, but also “economically dumb.”
“If we hold money from women and give them less earning power, that’s just a drag on our entire economy,” said the Huntington Democrat, who is retiring from Congress. “So we need to understand that pay equity is not just an issue of fairness, it’s an issue of economic smart strategy.”
Israel and Rice signed a proclamation declaring April 12 “Equal Pay Day” at Thursday’s event, hosted by the North Shore and Garden City chapters of the American Association of University Women at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Shelter Rock.
Federal statistics say American women’s median income for full-time work was 79 percent of men’s in 2014.
The gap is larger for women of color, according to an AAUW report that cites U.S. Census data — black women’s median income is 63 percent of white men’s, and Hispanic women’s just 54 percent.
“The wage gap of 79 cents for every dollar a man makes has not budged in more than a decade, and if it continues at this pace, we won’t catch up for 100 years,” said Trudy Ruchman, director of public policy for the North Shore AAUW branch.
An AAUW report says New York women’s median wage was 87 percent of men’s in 2014. The number was 75.6 percent in Israel’s North Shore congressional district and 83 percent in Rice’s in southwestern Nassau County.
The Equal Pay Act of 1963 banned sex-based wage discrimination, and other rules and laws, such as the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, have aimed to provide further protections and narrow the gap.
But despite them, “women across this country are still struggling to make the same amount of money as men,” said Rice, a Garden City Democrat.
When Rice was Nassau County’s district attorney, there was a 30-percent gap between male and female prosecutors’ pay that she helped close, she said.
In the case of one married couple who graduated law school and were hired at the same time, Rice said, the man was still paid more.
“It’s not just women not making as much,” she said. “It’s about opportunities that women don’t have that men do — if they choose to have children, do they have to get to the back of the line for management positions and other promotions that obviously come with pay increases?”
The Paycheck Fairness Act, a bill currently in committees in both houses of Congress, would provide further wage discrimination protections under the law, Rice said.
AAUW chapters around the country organize “Equal Pay Day” programs annually to raise awareness and take action around the pay gap, the organization’s website says.
Thursday’s event featured 79 percent of a sheet cake to represent the wage disparity.
Israel and Rice were joined by North Hempstead Town Councilwoman Anna Kaplan (D-Great Neck), a candidate for Israel’s Third District seat who introduced a Town Council resolution supporting New York’s paid family leave policy.