“Women are worth more than spare change.” [VIDEO]

Olivia Roskill, a high school student in Redmond, WA, testifies to the Washington State House Labor Committee in favor of the Equal Pay Opportunity Act (HB 1646), February 2, 2015:

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Click to watch video (opens to TVW website)

Chair, and members of the Committee, thank you for having me here today. My name is Olivia Roskill and I attend high school in Redmond, WA. I’m one of many students here with MomsRising today.

Can the students in favor of equal pay for equal work please briefly stand?

Today we are here for, and I’m testifying in favor of, the Equal Pay Opportunity Act.

Fair pay is extremely important to me. As a Sophomore, I’m starting to think about college and possible careers. My friends and I should be able to make the most out of our futures and have the same opportunities as everyone else.

Fairness and equality are bedrock values that we’ve been taught. And we’re shocked that all these years after our great grandmothers helped win the right to vote — and our grandmothers and mothers fought for equal rights, we’re still so far off.

Right now, on average, according to the US Census, women make only 78 cents to a man’s dollar, with moms and women of color experiencing more extreme wage hits. These wage hits are just not right — and are just not fair.

One day, far in the future, I, like more than 80% of women, might have children. But knowing that the wage hits are even more extreme for moms is really concerning. It’s time to take steps to end unfair pay practices – and that starts with advancing pay transparency through the Equal Pay Opportunity Act.

In closing, I want to share what some of the students who are here with me today have to say:

Megan, shared this: “I want to know that my hard work will pay off. I want to be valued just as much as my male counterparts.”

Connor had this to say: “We have a responsibility to treat and pay people equally for equal work.”

And Lilly said: “Equal pay is a basic human right.”

Please move to pass the Equal Pay Opportunity Act as soon as possible. Women are worth more than spare change.

Thank you.

“Women are paid less in one job, and then they can never catch up.” [VIDEO]

Janet Chung, Legal and Legislative Counsel at Legal Voice, testifies to the Washington State House Labor Committee in favor of the Equal Pay Opportunity Act (HB 1646), February 2, 2015:

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Click to watch video (opens to TVW website)

Good afternoon Mr. Chair and Members of the Committee. My name is Janet Chung and I work for Legal Voice, a nonprofit organization that works to advance the legal rights of women and girls. My background in private practice was in labor and employment law. I am here today on behalf of Legal Voice to support HB 1646.

Why We Need the Equal Pay Opportunity Act: The Wage Gap

Women in Washington State make 80 cents for every dollar a man makes.1 It’s even worse for women of color: Black women make 64 cents and Latinas, 54 cents for every dollar a white man makes.2 The average Washington woman working full-time is paid $18,000 per year less than the average man.3

This trend is true at all education levels and across all occupations. Women in Washington ages 25-45 hold more four-year degrees than men, but men with less formal schooling make the same as women with four-year degrees.4 A recent study showed that even one year out of college, women already are paid less than men.5

The wage gap is partly due to occupational segregation; that is, jobs in which women predominate (e.g., administrative clerks, health technicians, office administrators, and personal care services) are paid less than jobs in which men predominate (e.g., police and firefighters, engineering and computer-related fields), even when they require comparable education and skill. This is not just a matter of choice, but often is a result of career tracking, whereby women are steered toward different jobs than men. For example, in grocery stores, meat cutters (mostly men) are paid more than deli workers (mostly women).6

But even within the same job, it is true that women with comparable education and skills to men earn less than men.7 Wage differences within the same occupation make up most of the pay gap. A Harvard economist calculated that, after controlling for age, race, hours, and education, women who are doctors and surgeons earn 71% of what men in the same occupation earn, and women who are financial specialists make 66% of what men do.8

This matters for our economy. Our labor force is almost 50% women for the first time in history.9 Nearly three quarters of mothers now work.10 In 40% of households, women are the lead or sole breadwinners.11

The Equal Pay Opportunity Act: What it Does

There are two parts to this bill: it strengthens existing equal pay laws, and it addresses pay secrecy.

In 2010, over 60% of workers were forbidden or strongly discouraged from discussing pay.12 Standard workplace culture is one of secrecy around wages. People don’t know what others make. Lilly Ledbetter, for example, who we’ve all heard of, worked for Goodyear Rubber for 20 years until she learned from an anonymous note that she was paid 86% of the lowest paid male in the same position, and only 70% of what the highest paid male in that position was paid.

The Equal Pay Opportunity Act would prohibit requiring confidentiality and would protect workers from retaliation for disclosing or discussing their wages. It provides for administrative enforcement as well as the right to pursue a claim in court. These protections are important to change the culture of secrecy and to help close the wage gap.

The NLRA does provide some protections for wage disclosure, but not enough. It protects certain employees from retaliation for discussing wages if it is “concerted activit[y] for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection,” but it doesn’t cover everyone. It doesn’t protect supervisors, public sector employees, and entire industries such as airlines and railways, and not individuals acting only in their own interest. Remedies are also insufficient, and an employee cannot file a court claim until after the agency has pursued a charge and made a decision.13

Also, we do have laws prohibiting pay discrimination, but they too are inadequate. Anti-discrimination laws typically require intent, and claims are difficult to prove because an employer may give any reason, or no reason at all, for a pay differential, as long as it is not based on sex. Equal pay laws also don’t provide sufficient protection. Employers may defend by stating that a pay differential is based on “any factor other than sex.”14 Therefore, for example, courts have allowed employers to claim higher wages to males as necessary to lure them away from other employers or based on their higher prior salaries – which perpetuates systemic pay differentials. Women are paid less in one job, and then they can never catch up.

This bill would require a job-related reason for a pay differential. It also covers discrimination in job opportunities. We know that often women are not given the same information or opportunities, which results in career tracking.

This bill also would establish better enforcement. The current equal pay law has no administrative enforcement, so an employee has to file a lawsuit. A violation is a misdemeanor, but it is never enforced. The bill would allow Labor & Industries to investigate complaints and to enforce the law, and also provides for private enforcement and stronger remedies.

Essentially, this is a law to allow sunshine and equal pay opportunity. We can all agree that those are good things.

I urge you to vote HB 1646 out of committee. Thank you.


1 U.S. Census Bureau, 2013 American Community Survey, 1-year estimates.
2 U.S. Census Bureau, 2013 American Community Survey, 1-year estimates.
3 U.S. Census Bureau, 2013 American Community Survey, 1-year estimates.
4 U.S. Census Bureau, 2013 American Community Survey, 1-year estimates.
5 Christianne Corbett & Catherine Hill, American Association of University Women, Graduating to a Pay Gap:
The Earnings of Women and Men One Year after College Graduation (2012), at 9, http://www.aauw.org/files/2013/02/graduating-to-a-pay-gap-the-earnings-of-women-and-men-one-year-after-college-graduation.pdf.
6 Marilyn Watkins & Samantha Hatzenbeler, “The Equal Pay Opportunity Act: A Step Toward Fair Wages for Women,” at 2 (Data provided to the Economic Opportunity Institute by UFCW Local 21).
7 U.S. Census Bureau, 2013 American Community Survey, 1-year estimates; and Quarterly Workforce Indicators.
8 Claire Cain Miller, “Pay Gap Is Because of Gender, Not Jobs,” New York Times, Apr. 23, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/24/upshot/the-pay-gap-is-because-of-gender-not-jobs.html.
9 U.S. Dep’t of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Women in the Labor Force: A Databook,” BLS Reports, Report 1049 (May 2014) http://www.bls.gov/cps/wlf-databook-2013.pdf.
10 The labor force participation rate for all mothers with children under age 18 was 69.9 percent in 2013. U.S. Dep’t of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Employment Characteristics of Families Summary,” Economic News Release (Apr. 25, 2014), http://www.bls.gov/news.release/famee.nr0.htm.
11 Wendy Wang, Kim Parker & Paul Taylor, “Breadwinner Moms: Mothers Are the Sole or Primary Provider in Four-in-Ten Households with Children; Public Conflicted about the Growing Trend,” Pew Research Center, May 29, 2013, http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/files/2013/05/Breadwinner_moms_final.pdf.
12 A. Hegewisch, C. Williams, R. Drago, “Pay Secrecy and Wage Discrimination,” Institute for Women’s Policy Research, extract published Jan. 2014, http://www.iwpr.org/publications/pubs/pay-secrecy-and-wage-discrimination.
13 National Women’s Law Center, “Combating Punitive Pay Secrecy Policies,” April 2012, http://www.nwlc.org/sites/default/files/pdfs/paysecrecyfactsheet.pdf.
14 National Women’s Law Center, “Closing the ‘Factor Other than Sex’ Loophole in the Equal Pay Act,” April 2011, http://www.nwlc.org/sites/default/files/pdfs/4.11.11_factor_other_than_sex_fact_sheet_update.pdf.

WA legislature takes a step toward paid sick days — here’s what’s next

You helped pack the room on Monday for the Paid Sick Days (HB 1356) bill hearing. Legislators heard passionate testimony from a school nurse, a grocery worker, a small business owner, a domestic violence advocate and a senior — all speaking to the importance of every worker having paid sick days.

And just this morning (Jan. 29), the House Labor Committee voted to pass the bill out of committee!

Here’s the next crucial step: the House Appropriations Committee will consider whether to send the bill to the full House for a vote. Please click here to send an email urging committee members to support Washington workers by moving paid sick days to the full House for a vote!

Your action today will help ensure over 1 million workers in Washington state can earn paid leave to care for themselves or a loved one – including 170,000 people working in accommodation and food service, 167,000 in retail and 93,000 in health care and social assistance.

More great news!

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Healthy Tacoma supporters turned out in force to show their support for a strong paid sick days ordinance to Tacoma’s City Council

  • There’s another important committee hearing coming up — if you’re in Olympia, please sign in support of the Equal Pay Opportunity Act (HB 1646), to be heard on Monday, February 2 at 1:30 pm.
  • And finally, a big congratulations to our sister coalition Healthy Tacoma! Thanks to their two years of hard work, on Monday Tacoma’s City Council passed a Paid Sick and Safe Leave ordinance that will cover all workers in the city starting February 2016!

Show WA legislators you support Paid Sick Days and Paid Family Leave!

leave bank and stethoscopeTwo bills to improve economic security for Washington’s working families are off to a strong start in the 2015 legislature:

1. Paid Sick Days, to ensure everyone working in Washington can earn paid sick days on the job (HB 1356/SB 5306)

2. Family and Medical Leave Insurance funding and expansion which will (finally!) make paid family leave available to Washington workers and their families (HB 1273).

The paid sick days bill has unprecedented support with 43 sponsors, and the family leave insurance bill has similarly strong support — but there’s one thing missing: you!

Both bills are both scheduled for hearings next week — can you come to Olympia to show strong citizen support for either one (or both) of these bills?:

  • Paid Sick Days: Monday, January 26, 1:30-3:30 p.m. – Hearing Room B, John L. O’Brien building, Olympia
  • Family Leave: Thursday, January 29, 8:00-10:00 a.m. – Hearing Room D, John L. O’Brien building, Olympia

Can you be there? If so, please click here to tell us you’re coming.

If you’re not able to make it, we understand – but there’s still a way you can help: tell us about a time when you or a loved one really needed paid sick days or family leave insurance, but didn’t have it. Or a time when you had leave, and really relied on it to keep yourself or your family healthy.

Legislators are bombarded by facts and figures every day; it’s the personal stories that really resonate with them. Let’s make sure they won’t forget why paid sick days and family leave insurance matter so much to Washington families!

Thank you – hope to see you there!

The Equal Pay Opportunity Act: A Step Toward Fair Wages for Women

By Marilyn Watkins, Ph.D and Sam Hatzenbeler, MPHc, Economic Opportunity Institute

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Click to download PDF of full brief

From high-profile CEOs and movie stars to healthcare and retail workers, men consistently make more than women. Social scientists and economists have found clear evidence that gender-based discrimination persists – and is so deeply ingrained in culture and practice that it often goes unrecognized. Ensuring that all employees have the right to discuss and ask about pay and job opportunities, and that anti-discrimination laws are effectively enforced, will benefit women, families, businesses, and our state economy.

The Economic Opportunity Institute’s latest policy brief explains what the wage gap is, what causes it, and most importantly, what we can do to fix it.

So what exactly is the wage gap, anyway?

More than seventy years after Washington State banned paying women less for similar work, women’s pay still trails significantly behind men’s. Women make up almost half of the workforce and are either the sole or primary breadwinners in over 40% of families with children nationally. Yet, the typical Washington woman who worked full-time, year-round in 2013 took home only 80 cents for every $1.00 made by a man.

On average, Washington women working full-time in 2013 were paid $18,000 less than men, diminishing family budgets and undercutting community business prosperity. Women of color face especially large wage disparities. Nationally, median pay for White women is 78% of White men’s, for Black women 64%, and Latinas 54%. The wage gap persists at all education levels and across occupations.

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Why is there a Wage Gap?

The wage gap persists for a few key reasons:

  • Occupational segregation and devaluing “women’s work”: Continued occupational segregation and the lower value society assigns to “women’s work” explain a big part of the wage gap. Segregation persists and men’s jobs pay more within occupational categories.
  • Time out for family care: Women are more likely than men to work part-time and to take time out of the workforce for family care responsibilities. In Washington, women make up 47% of the full workforce, but hold only 41% of full-time, year-round jobs.
  • Motherhood penalty: On average, mothers tend to make lower wages than women without children, regardless of education and hours worked.
  • Discrimination: Economists have found that up to 40% of the wage gap cannot be explained by differences in occupation, industry, union membership, education or experience. At least part of this “unexplained” wage gap is related to discrimination.

Screen-Shot-2015-01-22-at-9.15.12-PMWhy Existing Laws Aren’t Enough

Washington State passed an Equal Pay Act in 1943 during World War II, when many women were performing traditionally male jobs. That law prohibits paying women less than men in similar work or in jobs formerly held by men. But to pursue a discrimination claim under this law, a woman would have to sue her employer in court and could only recover lost wages, not court costs or attorney fees.

Both Washington State and the federal government have passed additional anti-discrimination laws that protect people in a number of categories, including gender, race, disability or veteran status. Under these laws, however, women must prove intentional discrimination.

Many women never find out they are being paid less due to pay secrecy. While salary information is usually openly available in public sector jobs, one third of private firms admit in national surveys to actively discouraging or prohibiting employees from discussing their pay with other employees.

Modernizing state law: The Washington Equal Pay Opportunity Act

No single policy will close the gender pay gap, but some simple policy changes will make it easier to identify and challenge practices that have discriminatory results:

  • Protect the rights of all workers to discuss or ask about compensation, and prohibit retaliation against employees who do so. This will enable workers to find out if others in the company are being paid more for the same work.
  • Protect the right of workers to ask why they are being paid less, or why they do not have the same access to job or career opportunities as others.
  • Authorize the Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) to investigate charges of gender discrimination so that workers aren’t forced to go to court, and require employers to justify differences with job-related reasons, such as education, skills, or experience.

Pushing to the Next Level

Greater transparency in the workplace will provide everyone with more opportunity to gain equal wages. It will also open new career opportunities for more women and begin to challenge society’s general undervaluing of women’s work. Stronger fair pay legislation, together with more family-friendly workplace policies such as paid sick days, family and medical leave insurance, and reasonable accommodations for pregnant and breastfeeding women, will boost family budgets and women’s lifetime incomes. Local businesses will benefit, and our economy and communities will be stronger, when women have the opportunity to achieve equal pay.

Legislators look at bridging gender pay gap

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Jean Godden

Jean Godden used to be one of six columnists for the now-closed Seattle Post-Intelligencer newspaper. The other five were men. Then, Godden, who is now a Seattle City Council member, found out she was the lowest paid of the six.

“I don’t want another woman to face the same problem I faced with wage discrimination,” Godden said at a Thursday announcement of two proposed bills in Washington’s Legislature to tackle the disparity between what men and women are paid for similar work.

“Even today, women are paid 80 cents for every dollar earned by men for similar work,” said Rep. Tana Senn, D-Mercer Island. Senn and Sen. Annette Cleveland, D-Vancouver, plan to introduce companion bills to require employers to provide valid reasons — such as differences in education, training or experience — if employees challenge pay disparities between workers of the opposite sex for essentially the same work.

The proposed bills would allow gender-based pay disputes to be taken to an administrative judge at the Washington Department of Labor & Industries. The bills would also forbid employers from ordering workers not to disclose their salaries, and would forbid ordering employees from sharing pay information with each other. Nine states have similar laws.

Full Story: Crosscut.com »

You shouldn’t lose your job for being sick or for caring for your kids: Lateasha’s story

Screen Shot 2015-01-22 at 9.49.19 PMWashington workers deserve paid sick leave. All too often, workers are forced to choose between their families and their jobs, which can result in a disastrous string of events. Paid sick days allow workers to stay home when they fall ill and to care for a sick child when they need it  most. Guaranteeing paid sick time means workers can stay home without losing wages -preventing hard working families from falling into poverty. Lateasha, a single mom here in Washington, shares her story about how paid sick leave could have made all the difference. 

I lost my job because I had to take time off for sickness. I hope that sharing my story will help people understand how important it is for working parents like me to have paid sick leave.

I’m a single mom to three wonderful children. We became homeless and moved into YWCA Family Village in Redmond, Washington on July 1, 2013. On November first, I found seasonal work for the holidays at a local department store. I stocked shelves after hours and did some customer service. I liked the job and it was really close to my apartment here.

I did a good job and was asked to stay on the job after the holidays which was great. I was promoted from seasonal to part-time. I didn’t miss any days of work.

In late January, I got a terrible pain in my tooth and could not work. I always called in and spoke with my supervisor. I missed three days. When I returned to work, my supervisor started cutting my shifts so I got less hours and less pay. She also assigned me to some different projects. I felt like I was in trouble because I missed work, but no one said anything about my job being in jeopardy.

My tooth got worse. My face got swollen from an infection and I had to see a dentist. The dental care helped and I began to feel better.

Then, my youngest child got head lice and MRSA which are both very contagious. He was not allowed to go to childcare – which I understand – but I’m a single parent. Luckily, my brother was able to babysit so I didn’t miss too many days – only four.

But, when I did call in sick on May 6th, I was fired. I was told that I missed too many days in a calendar year and I was no longer employed there. Altogether, I missed 7 days between November 1st and May 6th.

I just got a better job doing some warehouse work which I like. I hope that it will become a permanent, full-time job that includes paid leave.

What happened to me happens to lots of people. We should find a way for part-time workers to have some paid sick leave. You shouldn’t lose your job for being sick or for caring for your kids.

Editor’s note: We want to hear from you! If you have a story about how you have been affected by a lack of paid sick time or family leave, please contact Gabriela@eoionline.org. Your stories can help legislators understand the importance of paid sick days and family leave.