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Black Women's Equal Pay Day Sheds Light on MS Wage Disparities

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Monday, July 24, 2023   

Black Women's Equal Pay Day on July 27 calls attention to the wage disparity between Black women and white men.

In Mississippi, it is even more pronounced than in other states. More than 100,000 women in the Magnolia State work in low-paid jobs, according to a new report from the National Women's Law Center.

Cassandra Welchlin, executive director of the Mississippi Black Women's Roundtable, said eight of 10 women who are heads of household live in poverty in the state. She pointed out it takes seven months for a Black woman's earnings to catch up to what a white man makes in a year, perpetuating a cycle of economic inequality and exclusion.

"Mississippi Black women earn 56 cents on the dollar," Welchlin reported. "Compared to the national, which is Black women earn 67 cents for full-time, year-round workers, and 64 cents for workers working part-time."

This means in a 40-year career, Black women lose more than $907,000 to the wage gap. Mississippi is one of only five states without a state minimum wage, so it still uses the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.

Last year, the Mississippi Legislature passed the "Equal Pay for Equal Work Act," to ensure men and women are paid equally for the same work. Welchlin argued it is a start, but more policy changes are needed. She explained the new law does not address the root causes of wage disparities.

"The bill actually said that they can pay a woman less based on employment gaps," Welchlin emphasized. "Well, we know women are going to have employment gaps because we are caregivers of our community, of our families. So that it actually codified -- that we have babies -- and so, you're discriminating against her for what she naturally does."

This week, the Roundtable is launching High Road Kitchens, which are independent restaurants providing food on a sliding scale to low-wage workers and others in need. She added it is part of their goal to raise the federal minimum wage, and also eliminate the lower, subminimum wage paid to tipped workers, of only $2.13 an hour.

"We are working with One Fair Wage to do a model here in Jackson, Mississippi," Welchlin outlined. "Where we are inviting restaurant owners -- we're going to be giving restaurant owners, I believe, $5,000 -- to be a part of this movement to increase wages, and to commit to removing the subminimum wage."

The events for Black Women's Equal Pay Day also include a panel discussion and a "Twitter storm" with some national partners about the importance of the observance.


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