Solidarity for the Good: Closing the Gender Wage Gap
Today, we observe Equal Pay Day, which serves to remind us of the pay gap between men and women. Equal Pay Day marks the day the average white woman would have to work into the next year to earn the same amount of money men earned in the previous year. On average, women currently earn 82 percent of what men earn in the United States. For women with higher education, the gap is even larger. With the average woman losing out on more than $530,000 over the course of her career, according to research from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), the wage gap remains a real problem.
As members of the Nonprofit Professional Employees Union (NPEU), we know unions help close the wage gap. In general, unions provide women with higher pay and better benefits, making the wage gap much narrower for unionized employees. The wage gap improves to 94 cents on the dollar for unionized workplaces, showing that while there is still work to be done, collective bargaining is an effective way to reduce gender pay imbalances. Extensive research into this and other solutions has been led by EPI, the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) and the Center for American Progress (CAP), all NPEU member organizations. As a union of progressive organizations that understand this issue and how to fix it, our union allows us to work with our employers to close the wage gap at our organizations. Here are some examples:
· Prohibiting salary histories: Members at both the CAP and the Center for Community Change (CCC) negotiated to prohibit salary history disclosure for those applying for open positions. Banning salary histories helps close the wage gap because if a woman earns less in her previous jobs, the pay gap can accumulate for her if future employers base her salary off of pay history.
· Pay transparency: Our members have worked to make compensation transparent through open and clear pay scales that allow employees to identify their salary by job title, experience, skills, training, and other qualifications. Pay transparency allows employees to know what their colleagues are being paid and make sure they are not being paid less for equal work.
· Pay equity analysis: Our members have negotiated to analyze, discuss, and address pay equity issues with management. By requiring employers to review their employees’ salaries and determine whether there are inequities based on gender, race, ethnicity, or other characteristics, gives management and our members the opportunity to identify and fix any disparities.
· Paid time off: Providing employees with paid time off allows them to balance the needs of their work and family.
o Paid family and medical leave: A majority of our units have negotiated for paid leave for the adoption or birth of a dependent child. Depending on the employer, the paid time off ranges from six weeks to six months. As research from Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), CAP, and the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) shows, paid family leave can help close the wage gap between men and women by making it easier for women to stay in or temporarily leave the workforce after the birth of a child. Additionally, there is evidence that men are more likely to take family leave when they have access to it and it is paid. Giving all employees the opportunity to take paid leave helps to eliminate the stigma associated with having a child and the impact on women’s wages by allowing new parents to take time off without leaving the workforce.
o Paid sick leave: We’ve negotiated generous sick leave policies that allow employees to stay home if they are sick, attend medical appointments, or take care of a sick dependent. Most of our members earn between 10 and 12 days of sick leave per year. Like paid family leave, access to paid sick days for all employees helps make men and women equal at work and narrow the wage gap.
· Procedures to prevent discrimination: Research shows that a substantial portion of the wage gap cannot be explained through measurable factors (differences in occupations, education, experience, etc.), which shows that part of the gap is due to gender-based discrimination. A common component of union contracts is a procedure to deal with contract violations—or grievances. As members of NPEU, we have contracts with our employers that secure pay, benefits, workplace treatment, and other conditions of employment. Our grievance procedures allow us to hold our employers accountable if they fail to enforce or follow antidiscrimination provisions in our contracts. Throughout the grievance process, we have support from the members of our union—including a representative from NPEU who is involved in the process—ensuring reports of discrimination cannot just be swept under the rug.
As we recognize the wage gap between men and women, we must remember one of the best ways to close it is with a union—like we have. If you are interested in taking action and closing the wage gap at your organization, contact us!