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‘I’m Worth the Whole Dollar’ is Rally Cry for Equal Pay for Black Women

Patti Singer

Almost nine months into 2019, and black women have earned what a white non-Hispanic male earned in 2018, according to advocates for pay equity.

“We know this issue impacts families significantly,” said Tanishia Johnson of ROC the Future Children’s Agenda, which is part of the Pay Equity Coalition. Representatives of more than a dozen organizations gathered Aug. 22 at Workers United on East Avenue to call for action from legislators and business leaders to end the pay gap.

“This is not just about black women supporting black women,” Johnson said. “We are looking for allies in this work. Male, female, of all walks of life who believe it’s an atrocity for women who are educated, specifically black women right now, … being paid at the rate they are being paid to do the same job of a white male.”

A sign at the Black/African American Women’s Equal Pay Day rally at Workers United on East Avenue. Photo by Patti Singer/Minority Reporter Media Group.

Black or African American women earn 64 cents to the dollar paid white non-Hispanic males, according to a state Department of Labor report from 2018 and quoted by the coalition.

The Rochester rally was part of national Black/African American Women’s Equal Pay Day that marked Aug. 22 as the day black women catch up to what white males in the same job have made.

Nationally, black women are paid 39 percent less than white men and 21 percent less than white women, according to the National Partnership for Women and Families. The pay ranged from 68 cents on the dollar in Maryland to 48 cents on the dollar in Louisiana.

The organization claimed that if the pay gap were closed, in one year a black woman working full time could afford over three years’ worth of groceries, nearly two years of rent, or two and a half years’ worth of childcare.

“Being paid significantly less for the same job that a white non-Hispanic male is being paid has an impact on that household, has an impact on that woman’s economic security, which impacts her family, which impacts her children, which impacts her affordability for day care and other areas of her life, that impact the economy overall,” Johnson said. “So this is a humanity issue.”

National survey data from reported the wages aren’t the only workplace inequality. The survey reported that compared to white women and men, black women had less access to senior leaders, fewer opportunities for mentorship and less access to training.

“We also believe the real root of the problem is not just gender bias, but racial discrimination,” Johnson said. “When we look at institutional, individual and structural racism that there are areas in which changes need to be made.”

Many of the advocates for pay equality wore red to the rally to signify the economic deficit facing black women.

The Pay Equity Coalition also plans to recognize Native American Equal Pay Day on Sept. 23 and Latina Equal Pay Day on Nov. 20. For more information about the coalition, go to