Today marks the day of wage equality, or Equal Pay Day - a day to remind our legislators that, in the 21st century, women continue to earn much less than men for the same work.
Now more than ever it is crucial that women earn a living wage. With the recession hitting sectors traditionally occupied by men, families are increasingly dependent on women's income to survive. A third of poor families in New York City are headed by women - many of whom are Latina. Among the female work force in New York State, Latinas fare the worst in terms of wages and earnings.
Several State and federal bills seek to ensure that women are guaranteed fair remuneration. These proposals should be ushered into law.
At the local level. the City Council will discuss in May a bill that aims to guarantee a decent wage to all persons who work for corporations that receive at least $100,000 dollars in public subsidies. A living wage is based on inflation and the cost of living.
If passed, thousands of workers, particularly those working in retail, would see an increase in salary from the $7.25 an hour required by the federal government to at least $10 an hour. And nearly half of retail workers are women.
The "Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act" has gained the support of 29 council members. Mayor Bloomberg, however, has signaled opposition, expressing concerns over the effect such a law would have on the local economy. The experience in other cities where similar laws have been adopted indicates that workers who earn more also spend more and accelerate the economy.
On Equal Pay Day, we strongly urge Bloomberg and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn - who has not yet issued a position on the bill - to act in favor of poor and middle-class New Yorkers, many of them women, and support legislation for living wages.