Senator Johnson, Gloria Steinam, Join Pay Equity Rally

Craig M. Johnson

April 04, 2008

ALBANY -- Senator Craig M. Johnson joined renowned author and activist Gloria Steinam, the New York State Pay Equity Coalition, and other supporters at a recent rally at the state legislative building in support of the NYS Fair Pay Act.

The measure, (S.3936), which Senator Johnson sponsors in the Senate, would mandate equal pay for work of equal value for jobs in which women and people of color predominate.

"This vital legislation is about equality," Johnson said. "Once and for all we need to ensure that everyone receive the equal pay and the equal respect that they deserve. I thank Ms. Steinam for her help in drawing attention to this measure and I am calling on the Senate Majority to do the right thing and bring this bill to the floor for a vote."

Ms. Steinem said: "Jobs have too often been valued by the supposed social value of the doer rather than the importance of the job. So we all get punished when childcare workers are paid less than parking lot attendants or nurses are paid less than gardeners. In this bill we have a very important opportunity to set things right."

The bill, which is similar to legislation on the books in two dozen other states, would also create a job evaluation system to compare jobs regardless of race and gender predominance. It would additionally offer employee protections for disclosing or discussing their wage. These protections do not currently exist.

"We should not be punished for sharing that information," Steinam said. "We can only discover whether our salaries are fair or not by sharing that information.  Since most employees work in the private sector where they can be punished, it is a very important part of this bill that it would protect literally, freedom of salary speech."

The State Assembly has overwhelmingly passed the NYS Fair Pay Bill every year since 2002. Bill (A.2712) sponsor Assemblymember Susan John (D-Rochester) said, "If New York State had not made comparable worth adjustments 20 years ago the Food Service Workers 2 would have been paid over two thousand less each year. Over a working lifetime, that's a lot of money in lost wages that could go toward her family, utility bills, rent, tuition, and saving for a better future and a sound retirement.

"The difficulties that arise from wage discrimination go beyond severe financial burdens.  There is also the grief a person endures due to lacking independence, security, equality and opportunities," continued Assemblymember John. "Wage discrimination impacts Social Security benefits and pensions forcing women and minorities to shoulder the burden of wage discrimination long after they've stopped working.  I applaud Gloria Steinem for her leadership on pay equity and other issues that are of concern to women across the state, nation and world."

Senate Democratic Leader, Malcolm A. Smith stated: "Pay equity is a basic right and to think that the Senate Republicans have blocked this legislation from passage for the past several years devalues us all. I am proud that the Senate Democrats are backing the movement for equal pay with Senators Craig Johnson, Liz Krueger and Toby Ann Stavisky sponsoring bills to address this inequity in different ways, whether it is through a constitutional amendment, an agency study or simply mandating this fundamental change."

Pay equity has significant support from labor unions.  "The New York State Public Employees Federation, (PEF) representing 58,000 Professional, Scientific, and Technical workers of New York State support this important piece of legislation," said PEF President Ken Brynien. "We firmly believe all workers should be treated fairly and without bias. The New York State Fair Pay Act is intended to eliminate discriminatory pay inequities that have been built into the compensation systems of many employers over time."

Alan Lubin, Executive Vice President of New York State United Teachers (NYSUT), observed, "This issue has remained unresolved for too many years.  Now is the time to act decisively to ensure economic justice for all New York workers, especially women and people of color who historically have been most adversely affected."

NYSPEC is a coalition of organizations supporting the passage of pay equity legislation in NY State including unions, women's and girls' organizations, civil rights and civic organizations. Following is a partial list of NYSPEC members: New York State United Teachers, United University Professions, United Public Service Employees Union, Service Employees International Union, Public Employees Federation, New York State Nurses Association, District Council 37, NYS Girl Scout Legislative Network, Women's Sports Foundation, Capital District Labor and Religion Coalition, National Association for Female Executives, Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, National Organization for Women, American Association of University Women, NYS Business and Professional Women, NY Women's Agenda, Long Island Fund for Women & Girls, the NYS League of Women Voters, Northeast Council of YWCA  and Women on the Job Task Force (NYSPEC's founding organization)