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This Election Day, Fight for Fair Wages & Better Jobs

This post was written by Sarah Brafman, Skadden Fellow, A Better Balance: The Work and Family Legal Center, as part of our PowHer the Vote 2017 campaign.

Today marks Latina Equal Pay Day, a day highlighting the fact that it takes 23 months, until November 2, 2017, for a Latina woman to make what a white, non-Hispanic man earned in the twelve months of 2016. In New York, Latina women still only make 56 cents for every dollar a white man earns. Black women in New York only make 66 cents for every dollar a white man earns. If we don’t actively work to address unequal pay, the gender wage gap will not close until 2059. That’s 42 years from now and entirely unacceptable.

The reasons for the disparity are numerous, from overt and implicit sexism and racism to pregnancy discrimination, caregiver discrimination, unequal compensation, inadequate minimum wage laws, and lack of access to paid leave and affordable childcare

As Election Day approaches, you have the power to demand change from your elected officials and to fight for fair wages and better jobs, especially for low-income workers and workers of color. Ask your candidates where they stand on these three critical issues:

  1. Ask your candidates: Do you support One Fair Wage? New York is one of 43 states where tipped restaurant workers are paid a separate, lower minimum wage than other workers. In New York, the poverty rate for tipped restaurant workers—the majority of whom are women, many of them single mothers—is more than twice that of other working New Yorkers. The One Fair Wage campaign is fighting in New York and nationally to help end this abusive culture by eliminating the two-tiered wage system and raising the subminimum wage for those who work for tips in the restaurant industry to match the regular minimum wage paid to other workers.
  2. Ask your candidates: Do you support banning the salary history question in New York State? Employers often ask prospective employees to provide prior salary histories in order to set salary pay rates. This practice persistently discriminates against women who historically earn lower salaries than men throughout their careers. New York City banned the practice last May and the law went into effect on October 31, 2017. Now it’s time for New York State to act. A salary history inquiry ban passed the Assembly last session but we need to get the State Senate on board as well. Ask your New York State Senate candidates if and how they plan to support the salary history legislation.
  3. Ask your candidates: Will you fight for fair schedules? When workers are forced to remain on-call even though they may not be required to work, or when they can be told their shift is cancelled hours before their reporting time, it makes scheduling their own lives impossible. Women retail workers in particular face enormous challenges around caring for their families while also providing for them.

In May, New York City enacted a package of Fair Work Week bills, which take effect in November, to tackle abusive scheduling practices in two low-paying industries in the city—fast food and retail. That package of laws which require two weeks advance notice of schedules, a minimum time between last shift and first shift (“clopening”) and rules around access to additional hours for fast food workers as well as a ban on on-call practices within 72 hours of a shift, will go into effect in November. Statewide requirements around scheduling abuses would protect workers outside of New York City, so it is critical that state legislators support fair scheduling legislation and/or changes to the state regulations around fair scheduling.