Statement of NJCA Associate Director, Dena Mottola Jaborska
Today is once again National Pay Equity Day. The day each year when we are reminded how far into the year women in this country have to work to achieve pay equity with men. According to the National Women’s Law Center, New Jersey women earn only 80.4 cents for every dollar their male counterparts earn. Pay inequity is even worse for African American women in New Jersey who earn just 58 cents on the dollar earned by white men, and Latinas who earn just 43 cents.
Pay discrimination is not the whole reason that the wage gap persists, but it is one we can, and should, address quickly. There is no reason why in 2016 a woman doing similar or exactly the same work should be paid less than a male co-worker. The fact that women have increasingly become substantial, even primary breadwinners for their families makes the issue more urgent than ever before.
Last week, we were reminded that wage discrimination is a still very real, when we learned that five champion women soccer players were earning just one quarter of what men on the U.S. Men’s National Soccer team earn.
Previous laws, including the Lilly Ledbetter Act of 2009, going back to legislation signed by President Kennedy in 1963, have failed to address the problem completely. Legislation that would close all the loopholes and give women, once and for all, the tools they really need to combat pay discrimination, has been passed by the New Jersey Legislature with strong bi-partisan support.
A2750 / S992, the New Jersey Pay Equity Act, was passed earlier this year in both houses of the state Legislature and is now sitting on the Governor’s desk. Governor Chris Christie should sign the New Jersey Pay Equity bill today, in its entirety, and make National Pay Equity something to really celebrate.
The bill would protect workers from retaliation for sharing information about their wages, making it possible for women to learn that they are being discriminated against. It would also require employers to explain any pay disparities among workers performing the same job, and allow employees to seek back pay for each year that they can prove they’ve suffered wage discrimination.
Paycheck fairness is not only a matter of justice for women it is also a matter of economic security for entire families which, today, are relying on women financially, more than ever. Ending wage discrimination has long been a demand of our grandmothers, and our mothers. Let us not allow it to continue to be a legacy passed down to our daughters as well.
Dena Mottola Jaborska is Associate Director of New Jersey Citizen Action (NJCA) and a member of the New Jersey Time to Care Coalition, which promotes work and family life balance for all New Jersey workers.