Today is Equal Pay Day
Who would believe that in 2014 we’d still be discussing gender-based pay discrimination? Certainly when Congress passed the Equal Pay Act in 1963, and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, our lawmakers and the nation believed that we had taken major strides towards closing the wage gap. Did you know that the wage gap hasn’t budged in 10 years? Women who work full-time year-round make 77 cents for every dollar their male counterpart makes. And it’s even worse for women of color — African American women make 64 cents for every dollar their white male counterpart makes, and for Latina women, it’s 54 cents. This appalling, persistent discrimination needs action.
In commemoration of Equal Pay Day, President Obama will be signing two executive orders to help mitigate the wage gap. The first will be to bar retaliation against workers under federal contract who inquire about or disclose wage information. This is an important step because the key to fighting pay discrimination is having the information in the first place! The second executive order calls on the Department of Labor to collect wage data from federal contractors with information about the race and gender of the employee. Both of these efforts are important — especially because one in five workers is a federal contractor.
However, these actions from the executive branch do not absolve Congress and the rest of us from taking action! We are anticipating a vote this week on the Paycheck Fairness Act in the Senate. This bill is a critical step towards closing the wage gap by expanding on the Equal Pay Act and the Civil Rights Act, and prohibiting retaliation against all workers who ask about wages. Last week, WRJ Executive Director Rabbi Marla J. Feldman and Commission on Social Action Director, Barbara Weinstein sent a letter to the Senate encouraging passage of the bill.
Jewish tradition has long recognized the importance of paying fair wages. Leviticus 19:13 commands that, “You shall not defraud your neighbor, nor rob him; the wages of he who is hired shall not remain with you all night until the morning.” Judaism also teaches that all human beings should be treated equally because they are created b’tzelem Elohim, in the image of God. “And God created humans in God’s own image, in the image of God, God created them; male and female, God created them” (Genesis 1:27).
Urge your Senators and Representatives to support the Paycheck Fairness Act.Take action here!!