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New York has made progress towards closing the gender pay gap but still has work to do, a report from the governor’s office released on Equal Pay Day indicated.
The state’s gender pay gap for full-time workers shrunk from 82.7 percent in 2010 to 88.2 percent in 2021. But wages continue to lag for women of color: black women are paid 67.8 cents cents for every dollar earned by white men, while Latina women earned 62.9 cents, according to the report.
The wage gap amounted to $350,360 in diminished lifetime earnings over a woman’s 40-year career, and reached $1,214,240 in lost earnings for Latina women.
“This report offers an important look into New York's ongoing fight for equal pay and provides a road map for helping our state close the gender wage gap once and for all,” Governor Kathy Hochul said in a statement. “My administration is fully committed to closing the gender wage gap, especially for the single mothers and women of color who are disproportionately affected, because better working conditions for women means a stronger, fairer economy for all.”
Childcare a key
The governor’s office made several policy recommendations to reduce the wage gap, including tying the state’s minimum wage to inflation. Several of the suggestions were aimed at closing a wage disparity within the state workforce — women in the state’s civil service were paid 91 cents for every dollar earned by white male workers. The suggestions included increasing the use of flexible work arrangements at state agencies, expanding the state’s paid parental leave benefit to state workers, and modernizing the civil-service exam process to ensure tests are offered more frequently.
The report also noted the importance of implementing universal childcare. Childcare costs for an infant total nearly a quarter of the average annual salary for a family in New York. The state’s childcare sector also lost about 8,300 workers since the start of the pandemic. The industry is notoriously low-paid, with workers earning an average wage of $31,900.
“Undoubtedly, the child care crisis is the singular issue that dominates current discussions and it is one that demands urgent and decisive action,” the report stated.
Labor leaders and members of the City Council also called attention to Equal Pay Day during a rally at the Communications Workers of America Local 1180’s Tribeca headquarters.
“New York City would not be the city it is without the care and labor women have and continue to provide, so it is critical that women legislators like myself stand together with our partners in labor in advocacy against this narrative that women’s work is not worth equal pay,” said Council Member Amanda Farías, who chairs the Council’s women’s caucus.
She noted that, when including part-time workers, women in New York City earned 74 cents for every dollar earned by men. Advocates from PowHer New York and Legal Momentum also joined the March 14 rally.
Addressing pay disparities within the city workforce was also key. A report published last September by the Council found that the median annual salary for female city employees was $22,874 less than that of male city workers. Much of the pay gap in the municipal workforce was driven by occupational segregation, with black, Latino, Asian and female employees typically over-represented in low-paying jobs.
‘Clearly a lot of work to be done’
During the rally, Council members highlighted a package of pay equity legislation enacted earlier this year, which expands upon a 2018 law that mandates the city to publish municipal employee pay data annually.
“It’s … not right when women make up 60 percent of our frontline and municipal workforces, and more than half are black or brown women, yet the women who keep our city running are not being paid according to the value they provide,” said Council Speaker Adrienne Adams.
Local Law 18 was spurred by a 2013 lawsuit by CWA Local 1180 charging that the city had discriminated against the women and people of color who made up a majority of administrative managers. In 2015, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found reasonable cause to believe that the city had discriminated against workers in that title for decades. The city and union reached a $15 million settlement in 2019.
“There’s clearly a lot of work to be done. But it is possible to level the playing field for working women by increasing transparency around wages across the board, disrupting occupational segregation, expanding access to paid leave and child and elder care and creating more good union jobs,” CWA Local 1180’s president, Gloria Middleton, said at the rally.
Although the Council’s report found that a small pay disparity exists between women of color and white male employees holding the same civil-service title — 1.4 percent for black women and 1.3 percent for Latinas — some titles saw significant gaps.
The United Probation Officers Association filed a lawsuit over a pay disparity between male and female probation officers, alleging that white men earned $14,500 more than female employees. The union also alleged that, while the department has a workforce that is 80 percent women and overwhelmingly non-white, white male employees disproportionately received promotions. Dalvanie Powell, president of the UPOA, has repeatedly called for probation officers to be granted uniformed status.
“It has been a long journey, but we will continue to fight until New York City’s probation is paid and treated with the same respect and value as other law enforcement,” she said.
Middleton added that the advocates’ goal “is to celebrate Equal Pay Day on Jan. 1.”
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