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Pay Black Women What They Are Worth

By Tyronda James

Women Assembled on Black Women’s Equal Pay Day. Photo by Tyronda James/Minority Reporter Media Group.

The Black Women’s Equal Pay Day (BWEPD) rally and press Conference was to protest and advocate for pay equity for Black women.

Black Women’s Equal Pay Day fell on Tuesday, Aug. 3. and was sponsored by the Pay Equity Coalition (PEC), a grassroots alliance of volunteers centralized in Monroe County and Rochester in the United States of America. They particularly work to reduce pay inequities that afflict women. PEC hopes to lead the city of Rochester in closing the wage gap for women of color and all women.

If you’re a Black woman in the US, you are most likely working seven extra months just to earn the same total pay as a white, non-Hispanic male. Black women are paid 63 cents for every dollar paid to white men. White women are paid 79 cents for every dollar paid to white men.

The coalition’s co-founder Yversha Roman said their intent is to bring awareness and advocacy, so that legislative changes are made in the community.

“We believe that advocacy without legislation, doesn’t work. So as a coalition, we have been pushing for salary range disclosure as a coalition because we understand how important it is for pay disparities to stop,” she said.

“And one way of doing that is to ensure that every single time you apply for a job, you know exactly how much the organization is willing to pay you. Because what we know is that as women and as women of color, we undervalue ourselves. We oftentimes are taken advantage of .” 

Gender pay gap affects both women and families in more ways than one, it is much more than a statistic. It perpetuates income inequality for women of color. Black women are said to work almost two-thirds of a year more to earn the salary paid to non-Hispanic white men in one year.

Just a year ago, Monroe County Executive Adam Bello signed an executive order, August 13, at last year’s Black/African American Equal Pay Day Rally recognizing BWEPD. Under the order, the Monroe County Law Department developed a county equal pay certification, to be used by all county offices, departments and administrative units ensuring compliance throughout the contract approval process.

The PEC seeks additions to the previous executive order, as listed below:

  • We seek an addition to Monroe County Executive Bello’s executive order to ensure contracts require employers to post salary ranges on all positions the same way Monroe County jobs are posted.
  • We also seek the leadership of Monroe County Executive Adam Bello with the County Legislature to become a model for New York State by creating salary range posting requirement laws for both public and private sectors in 2021.
  • We also seek for the City of Rochester to fully adhere to the Salary History Ban and to fully roll out training to ensure departments stop using an old policy to break the current law. 

Dr. Celia McIntosh, vice president of the Rochester Black Nurses Association (RBNA) says that black women make up the majority of healthcare workers, which includes nursing, certified nursing assistants and others and are “underpaid, undervalued and overlooked for promotions, have lack of sponsorship, upward mobility, barriers, wage gap, and day-to-day microaggressions and biases.”

McIntosh, on behalf of the RBNA, asks for structural change and improvement and salary equity in the workplace. As well as change in hiring practices, equitable promotions and wage transparency.

“We want to change workplace culture and employment policies, especially regarding healthcare employees,”

“Pay equity is standard care.”

Ronieka Burns, program specialist with SEIU-1199 Healthcare Workers said during the first 19 years of her healthcare journey, she realized that her education, her background and her expertise didn’t matter and that her value was lowered due to the color of her skin. Beginning at Strong hospital and taking advantage of the education department’s programs offered, she said when applying for jobs, she noticed the significant pay disparities.

“Black women in healthcare in the industry start off disadvantaged from the moment we enter the workforce. Even with degrees in education, black female essential workers make less than a man and non-black women on all levels,” Burns said.

“According to the Economic Policy Institute, since the era of slavery, the dominant view of the black woman has been that we should be workers, a view that contributed to the devaluation of mothers as caregivers with needs at home. African American women’s unique labor market history and current occupational status continues to reflect these beliefs and policy practices.”

The women were also joined by Rochester at-large councilmember Malik Evans and NYS Assemblymember Demond Meeks – District 137 in support of pay equity for black women.

Meeks said some of the challenges with the violence we see in the community, goes back to some of the challenges stemming from pay inequity.

Single mothers raising children being forced to work long extended hours, away from their children for long periods and still unable to make ends meet. He said, children with idle time become attracted to different environments, such as gang involvement, gang activity and it goes back to some of the challenges with pay equity.

Meeks said he is thankful for Senator Samra Brouk and Assemblymember Sarah Clark – District 136, at the state level. “We took an oath when we took office to look at things through a racial justice lens, through an equity lens,” he said.

“It’s time that we pay people what they’re due. It’s time that we respect the work that people do. And as an advocate for marginalized communities that’s what we’re committed to do. So we’ll commit to signing off on legislation and we’ll also demand that equity pay happens now.”

Danielle Ponder, Monroe County Public Defender said increasing wages is a step to lifting people and specifically black women out of poverty.

“I also want to be clear that the data shows us that race policies will do little to close the racial wealth gap,” Ponder said.

“We also must be bold and consider core targeted measures such as universal basic income, housing assistance, direct payments and reparations!”   

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