April 27, 2015

Assembly Moves to Eliminate Income Inequality
by Passing Pay Equity Bills

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Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie announced the Assembly's expected passage of comprehensive legislation today to close the wage gap to ensure that all New Yorkers are fairly compensated for the work they do. Heastie was joined by Labor Committee Chair Michelle Titus and other members of the Assembly Majority at an afternoon Capitol news conference.

With the goal of leveling the playing field in the workplace, Speaker Carl Heastie and Labor Committee Chair Michelle Titus today announced the Assembly's intent to pass a series of bills that will eliminate obstacles to pay equity for women and minorities throughout the state of New York.

"The pay equity gap is a result of a systematic devaluing of women and minorities in the work place. We need to ensure equal pay for equal work. By paving the way for full economic equality, we will help to put more money into the pockets of some of our most vulnerable residents and put them on a course toward greater economic independence," said Heastie.

"Women in New York earn 86 percent of what men earn and jobs traditionally held by women pay significantly less than jobs predominantly held by men. Women are put at an economic disadvantage because of their gender, not their job performance and it has to end," said Titus. "The Assembly has supported women's right to fair pay over the years and this brings us one step closer to achieving it."

When the National Equal Pay Act was passed in 1963, women earned 59 cents to every dollar earned by men. More than 50 years later, the gap has closed only slightly. While New York fares better than the national average, women here are still paid less than men for equivalent work. The gap for women of color is even larger -African American women make an average of 66 cents and Latina women just 55 cents for every dollar that their male counterparts earn.

The New York State Fair Pay Act (A.6937, Titus) would prohibit the payment of differential wages between employees on the basis of gender, race or national origin. This bill would also protect workers against retaliation by employers for sharing wage information with their colleagues.

Another measure (A.6075, Titus) would define the circumstances under which an employer could pay differential wages to workers who are performing the same duties. This bill would also provide for an increase in the damages for employees who are found to have been underpaid in violation of pay equity laws.

The pay equity package also includes legislation that would:

Beverly Neufeld, founder of PowHer New York Equal Pay Campaign, said "Passage of the New York Equal Pay bill in the Assembly is a landmark step toward ending the wage discrimination caused by pay secrecy and workers' fear of retaliation. This successful culmination of legislative leadership and years of advocacy spotlights bi-partisan agreement that what is good for women is good for New York State. We look forward to working with the Speaker and the legislature in making our state the best for working women and a model in the national movement for economic equity."

Suzy Ballantyne, co-chair of the Women's Equality Coalition, said "As the co-chair of the Women's Equality Coalition representing over 850 organizations and businesses, we want to commend the Assembly for addressing equal pay. The Assembly has long taken the lead in advocating for laws to ensure equal pay for all New Yorkers. We commend Speaker Heastie for taking a thoughtful approach to all these issues as well as all the members of the Majority and especially the women's delegation. This law finally closes a loophole as big as tractor-trailer. This will make real progress so that New York will once again lead the nation in helping to achieve equal pay for women."

Dina Bakst, co-founder & co-president of A Better Balance, said "Every year, discrimination in pay punishes millions of women across New York State. At a time when women's wages are critical to family economic security, this is appalling. A Better Balance applauds the New York State Assembly for championing equal pay for women and passing these important pieces of legislation."

Mario Cilento, president of the New York State AFL-CIO, said "The Labor Movement in this state has fought for pay equality for decades. As a father of three daughters, I find it shameful that still today, on average, women in New York State earn 86 cents for every dollar that men earn. The time to fix this inequity is now. I applaud Speaker Carl Heastie and Labor Chair Michele Titus for their leadership in making sure New York State takes this important step toward achieving women's equality in the workplace."