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Working Hard for Less Money - It's "Equal Pay Day" for Women

April 24, 2007


Seattle, WA - Today is "Equal Pay Day," calling attention to the difference in wages between women and men. The wage gap costs women hundreds of thousands of dollars during their working lives, and not just in paychecks, but in their chances for a secure retirement.

In Washington, women make up almost half of the workforce, but on average, they earn 25 percent less per hour than men. This means less Social Security and retirement savings for women, too. Women's Studies professor and author Ellen Bravo is an expert on the wage gap. Speaking in Seattle this week, she says it will take more than a female governor and senators to show real progress for working women.

“Even if Washington is doing better than some states, it's still not good enough. There are a lot of people who get fired for having a sick kid. There are a lot of people who can't afford to take family leave because it's unpaid. There's a lot of work that remains to be done on pay, on family flexibility, on sex discrimination, sexual harassment, etc.”

On this Equal Pay Day, look for a push for two bills introduced in Congress in the past month. Both are updates to the current equal pay law, which was passed in 1963.

Bravo notes that discrimination is "embedded" in the market rates for many jobs, and that the current equal pay laws are weak and not often enforced.

“This isn't about doing a favor to women, it's a better way to run a company or a country, or a family. But the problem is, most women work in jobs where they aren't allowed to negotiate about anything, much less pay and benefits, and where they can be fired for talking about pay with coworkers.”

More information about the equal pay issue can be found at www.pay-equity.org. Washington-specific figures about the wage gap in the "State of Working Washington 2006" report is on the Economic Opportunity Institute Web site, www.eoionline.org.

Chris Thomas/Eric Mack, Public News Service - WA