Black Women’s Equal Pay Day: A Reminder to Stand Up and Speak Out

08/02/2017

By Grant Glickson, 
President, NewsGuild of New York

 

Monday, July 31 marked a sobering milestone: the day to which black women have to work in 2017 in order to earn a salary equivalent to that of their white male counterparts last year. 

Black Women’s Equal Pay Day is an indictment of the discrimination that plagues American workplaces—and a reminder of all the work that remains to be done. That’s why the NewsGuild of New York was proud to participate in a social media storm alongside a coalition of unions and nonprofit groups fighting for fair treatment on the job.

The numbers are staggering: On average, black women are paid just 67 cents on the dollar compared to white men, according to the Economic Policy Institute. And the discrimination extends across education levels, from factories and fast food joints to the upper echelons of corporate America: Even black women with advanced degrees earn about $7 an hour less than white men who hold only bachelor’s degrees.

Unions are far from perfect, but the fact is, they are still the most effective tool available to combat these inequities. Only collective action — and well-organized collective power — can take on systemic injustices of this sort.

Simply put, non-union workplaces all too often function like mini-dictatorships: Bosses set pay levels where they want them—often varying wildly from individual to individual—and they can fire or punish at will, putting an implicit check on the willingness of employees to ask for higher pay. This is the sort of environment in which unjust pay discrepancies thrive.

Federal wage data confirms that discriminatory gaps are pervasive: Women earn less than men. But having a union in the workplace does make a difference. Black women with union representation earn more than their white non-union counterparts, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

Still, we realize there’s room for progress even in union-represented workplaces. That’s why the NewsGuild has been increasingly active on this front. We are committed to addressing pay discrepancies based on gender and race in all of our newsrooms, as well as helping to raise the standards across the media landscape. We can and should vigorously fight for transparent pay scales as part of collectively-bargained contracts to eliminate unfair gaps that exist.

Discrimination against women and people of color runs deep in America. Unions alone can’t eliminate it and we shouldn’t expect them to. But we’re doing our part to make workplaces more transparent and more fair. In the end, that benefits everyone. 

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