Equal Pay for Equal Work

Abigail Shapley

Unions Help Women's Wages

Are Women Paid Fairly?, 2013

Sarah Standiford is executive director of the Maine Women's Lobby, a nonpartisan advocacy group.

The gender wage gap is persistent and devastating to women and families. Legislation that promotes fair pay must be protected and promoted. The Paycheck Fairness Act is one way to address wage discrimination. Another important measure is to keep unions strong. Unions can benefit women as much as a college education when it comes to workplace safety, security, and wage fairness.

For women across the country, today [April 12, 2011] is an important day—the nationwide observance of Equal Pay Day. The date symbolizes how far into 2011 women must work to earn what men earned in 2010.

According to the most recent U.S. Census Bureau statistics, women who work in full-time, year-round jobs in Maine earn, on average, 76.7 cents for every dollar earned by men working in those jobs.

The persistent gender wage gap is more than simply a matter of fairness. Maine's wage gap leaves women and their families shortchanged by thousands of dollars a year—and hundreds of thousands of dollars over the course of a lifetime.

Pay Inequality Affects Everyone

The wage gap not only depresses women's incomes over the short term, but also weakens retirement security down the road. In some cases, it keeps women—and the families they support—poor.

So what can we do to address the inequity? The Paycheck Fairness Act, which failed to pass the U.S. Senate last year [2010] on a close procedural vote (despite the support of a majority of senators), would help. The bill is an update to the nation's 48-year-old fair pay laws.

Paycheck Fairness would strengthen incentives for preventing wage discrimination and prohibit retaliation against workers who inquire about employers' wage practices. It's due to be reintroduced in the 112th Congress this week [March, 2012].

In the previous Congress, Paycheck Fairness was championed by Maine's two Democrats in the House, Reps. Mike Michaud and Chellie Pingree. This time around, it deserves the support of Maine's entire delegation.

Here's an even simpler way to promote fair pay: Keep Maine's existing protections on the books.

Stop Legislation that Weakens Unions

The fact is, several bills in the state Legislature would make access to fair pay all the more difficult for women, and would erase the gains women have already made in the work force.

For example, Gov. Paul Le-Page is promoting legislation to undermine unions—part of an effort to weaken Maine's worker protections, such as child labor and overtime laws.

This is a problem because, simply put, unions are one of the very best ways for women to achieve paycheck fairness. So-called "right to work" bills are part of a national effort that included the drive to weaken workers' collective bargaining rights in Wisconsin.

The bills, if enacted, would stop employers and employees from negotiating an agreement—also known as a union security clause—that says that all workers who receive the benefits of a collective bargaining agreement share the costs of representation.

"Right to work" laws make it illegal for unions to collect fees for services that the law requires them to provide. The result is clear: weaker unions with fewer resources to defend the workers they represent.

That's why workers in states with these misnamed laws make less money and have fewer benefits. In fact, all people in "right to work" states have a lower standard of living—lower wages, higher poverty rates, less access to health care, less safe workplaces.

Research Shows Women Benefit from Unions

If we allow our unions to be undercut, women's earnings will suffer. For women, the union advantage has always been evident. Findings from the Center for Economic Policy and Research, which analyzed data from the U.S. Census Bureau's Current Population Survey, found that unionization raises the pay of women workers by almost $2 per hour.

Says economist John Schmitt, author of the 2008 report: "For women, joining a union makes as much sense as going to college. All else equal, joining a union raises a woman's wage as much as a full year of college, and a union raises the chances a woman has health insurance by more than earning a four-year college degree."

If we allow our unions to be undercut, women's earnings will suffer.

There are two proven ways for women to increase their earnings. One is access to higher education. After all, the gender wage gap means that a typical woman needs to have a bachelor's degree in order to make the same amount that a male high school graduate earns.

The second way is to be part of a collective bargaining agreement, which levels the playing field for everyone.

If Mainers allow these "right to work" bills to pass in the Legislature this year, Maine women will pay the higher price.

Further Readings


  • European CommissionThe Gender Pay Gap—Origins and Policy Responses: A Comparative Review of 30 European Countries. Saarbrücken, Germany: Dictus Publishing, 2011.

  • Warren FarrellWhy Men Earn More: The Startling Truth Behind the Pay Gap—and What Women Can Do About It. New York: AMACOM, 2005.

  • Janet C. Gornick and Marcia K. MeyersGender Equality: Transforming Family Divisions of Labor (The Real Utopias Project, Vol. VI). London: Verso, 2009.

  • Nancy Hogshead-Makar and Andrew ZimbalistEqual Play: Title IX and Social Change. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press, 2007.

  • Jane La TourSisters in the Brotherhoods: Working Women Organizing for Equality in NYC. New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2008.

  • Lilly LedbetterGrace and Grit: My Fight for Equal Pay and Fairness at Goodyear and Beyond. New York: Crown Publishing, 2012.

  • Linda C. McClain and Joanna L. GrossmanGender Equality: Dimensions of Women's Equal Citizenship. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009.

  • Evelyn Murphy and E.J. GraffGetting Even: Why Women Don't Get Paid Like Men. New York: Touchstone, 2005.

  • Brigid O'FarrellShe Was One of Us: Eleanor Roosevelt and the American Worker. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2010.

  • Thomas SowellEconomic Facts and Fallacies, New York: Basic Books, 2007.

  • Dorris WeatherfordAmerican Women and World War II: History of Women in America. Edison, NJ: Castle Books, 2008.

  • World BankWorld Development Report 2012: Gender Equality and Development. Washington, DC: the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development/The World Bank, 2011.

Periodicals and Internet Sources

  • BBC "Female Pay 'Unequal' to Male Colleagues for 57 Years," August 19, 2010.

  • Stacey Blackman "Study Examines Male-Female Wage Gap, Post MBA," US News and World Report, August 26, 2011

  • Mariko Lin Chang "On Equal Pay Day, Busting 4 Top Myths About the Wage Gap," Ms. Magazine, April 12, 2011

  • Stephanie Coontz "It's Not Just a Wage Gap," New York Times, April 18, 2012

  • Elizabeth Dwoskin "Why the Argument Against Fair Pay Laws is a Farce," Bloomberg Businessweek, June 6, 2012

  • The Economist "Executive Pay for Women," The Economist, August 31, 2011

  • Laura Fitzpatrick "Why Do Women Still Earn Less than Men?" Time, April 20, 2010.

  • Shaun Gallagher "Mind the Male-Female Income Gap, but Don't Exaggerate It," Forbes, May 21, 2012.

  • Nancy Gibbs "What Women Want Now," Time, October, 14, 2009

  • Huffington Post "Women Executives Will Destroy the World, Say Male Economists," Huffington Post, March 28, 2012

  • Anthony Kang "The Wage Gap Myth," American Thinker, September 18 2010.

  • Glenn Kessler "Obama's Data on the Gender Wage Gap," The Washington Post, June 5, 2012

  • Joann S. Lublin "Coaching Urged for Women," The Wall Street Journal, April 4, 2011

  • Ashley McDonnell "Gender Gap in Coaches' Salaries Scrutinized," The Brown Daily Herald, November 3, 2011.

  • June E. O'Neill "Washington's Equal Pay Obsession," Wall Street Journal, November 16, 2010

  • Renee Ordway "Don't Be So Quick to Blame Businesses for Wage Gap Between Men, Women," Bangor Daily News, June 8, 2012.

  • Knowledge@Wharton "The Vicious Cycle of the Gender Pay Gap," Knowledge@Wharton, June 6, 2012

  • Catherine Rampell "The Gender Pay Gap by Industry," The New York Times, February 17, 2011.

  • Robert Ross "Study Alleges Louisiana has Largest Male-Female Wage Gap in US," The Pelican Post, December 1, 2011

  • Amy Tennery "The Real Reason Women Don't Help Other Women at Work," Time, May 11, 2012

  • Becky Sheetz-Runkle "Is the Male-Female Wage Gap a Myth? You Decide...," www.womenonbusiness.com, April 20, 2011.

Full Text: COPYRIGHT 2013 Greenhaven Press, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning.

Source Citation

Standiford, Sarah. "Unions Help Women's Wages." Are Women Paid Fairly? Ed. Jennifer Dorman. Detroit: Greenhaven Press, 2013. At Issue. Rpt. from "Maine Voices: Unions are Women's Best Friend in Equal-Pay-For-Equal-Work Quest." www.PressHerald.com. 2011. Opposing Viewpoints in Context. Web. 1 Dec. 2015.



Gale Document Number: GALE|EJ3010851209

Wage Gap is a Myth

MYTH 5: Women earn 77 cents for every dollar a man earns—for doing the same work.

FACTS: No matter how many times this wage gap claim is decisively refuted by economists, it always comes back. The bottom line: the 23-cent gender pay gap is simply the difference between the average earnings of all men and women working full-time. It does not account for differences in occupations, positions, education, job tenure or hours worked per week. When such relevant factors are considered, the wage gap narrows to the point of vanishing.

Wage gap activists say women with identical backgrounds and jobs as men still earn less. But they always fail to take into account critical variables. Activist groups like the National Organization for Women have a fallback position: that women’s education and career choices are not truly free—they are driven by powerful sexist stereotypes. In this view, women’s tendency to retreat from the workplace to raise children or to enter fields like early childhood education and psychology, rather than better paying professions like petroleum engineering, is evidence of continued social coercion. Here is the problem: American women are among the best informed and most self-determining human beings in the world. To say that they are manipulated into their life choices by forces beyond their control is divorced from reality and demeaning, to boot.

Why do these reckless claims have so much appeal and staying power? For one thing, there is a lot of statistical illiteracy among journalists, feminist academics and political leaders. There is also an admirable human tendency to be protective of women—stories of female exploitation are readily believed, and vocal skeptics risk appearing indifferent to women’s suffering. Finally, armies of advocates depend on “killer stats” to galvanize their cause. But killer stats obliterate distinctions between more and less serious problems and send scarce resources in the wrong directions. They also promote bigotry. The idea that American men are annually enslaving more than 100,000 girls, sending millions of women to emergency rooms, sustaining a rape culture and cheating women out of their rightful salary creates rancor in true believers and disdain in those who would otherwise be sympathetic allies.

My advice to women’s advocates: Take back the truth.

Persuasive Strategies


When sitting in a classroom, most teachers don’t know what’s going on inside of their students’ heads. They tell them to write an essay, not knowing the results that will come out of it. They may ask their students to write a short story, giving them only their imagination to go off of. Most would write about something they wish, something they’ve only read in books or seen on TV, but perhaps one would write about something that was real. They write about a fight that happens in everyday society, a struggle for equality in a world far from it. They write about how our differences exist, but only so far that we should accept them and move on. This student may be young, but they know things that even the most educated adult refuses to believe. What they have written will come a shock to the teacher when grading the papers, as how would someone still in grade school be aware of the fact that for every dollar a man makes, a woman earns 78 cents for the same work? People across the country choose to argue that the gender wage gap is a myth, that it is made up as a feminist argument to earn pity. They refuse to accept the truth in fear that they will lose control. In this country, women are paid less than men, given less respect in the same environment, and are still under threat of them being stripped of their rights.

In 1919, the cry that had rung up from women was heard and answered, giving them suffrage and a voice in their country, at least somewhat. They fought hard and started protests, asking for equality between them and men. They asked for a simple right, the right to be counted as human and given civil rights. Still, over that course of 96 years, women are not considered equal. By given statistics, women in the year 2014 were paid almost 79% of what men were over their lifetimes, and this has been pushed to the side, saying that it’s due to the fact that women pick lower paying jobs or are doing less work than men. The wage gap is even more present between the races of women and men doing their jobs, as in a study done in 2014, it was found that African American women were paid 90% what African American men were, white women were paid 78% of what white men were, and Asian American women were paid 79% of what men of the same ethnicity earned. If all of these ethnicities were compared to white men’s earning for the same job, Hispanic women would be paid 54%; American Indian or Alaskan Native would be paid 59%; Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander 62%; African American 63%; White (Non Hispanic) 78%; and Asian American women would be paid 90%. Even with the same degree or level of education, the gap between payment is apparent. Over a year, the average payment is around $40,000, so if a man works for 40 years, he would make $1,600,000. In this average payment, to find out how much women would be paid out of this amount, 79% of $1,600,000 would have to be found. When the math is done, it would show that women would be paid $1,264,000, at least white women would. The payments for women of other ethnicities would vary as well.

Along with being paid less in a working environment, women have to suffer the lack of respect that others have towards them. There have been recorded stories about women being mistreated or harassed by other employees, or being told that they are not good enough for the job because they are of that gender. Most of these victims in situations such as this would be set aside and blamed for the actions that others did unto them, like “they were wearing provocative clothing,” or “they should have picked a more feminine job.” In circumstances like this, women often feel as if they are unimportant in society and that there is a threat to their voice in the environment that they live in. There is really no excuse for women to be treated this way, as no man should ever have such little respect for himself or for others to say such a thing, or should a women ever have such an arrogant mind to think of saying something without thinking of them being in a similar situation. Every action that a person has is stimulated by their own mind, and if they really thought, they would see that the differences between all people should not determine our worth in the world. All people should be treated with respect everywhere they go, but, to focus on main issues in present day, all women should be considered equal in a working environment.

If research is continued further into the topic, the route that is being followed in dividing men from women could result in rights being removed, like the right to vote. There has been useless controversy over this topic, different sides with varying opinions each determining the rights of others. Though it could be argued that women’s rights were given to them and can be taken as well, if men hadn’t believed they were so much higher than women in the first place, the right to be part of represented society would be natural. In no way have women abused their rights, and asking for equality is not doing anyone any harm, as it wouldn’t do any harm to listen and fulfill their pleas either. Women are under threat of being considered not human, and rights, are the foundation of what declares something human. As was in “the bible. The code of Hammurabi, and of Justinian. Magna Carta. The Constitution of the United States. The Statutes of Alpha Ⅲ. [...] These documents all speak of rights [...as do I.] A machine has none. A [human] must.[...] If you do not grant [these rights] you have brought us down to the level of [a] machine. Indeed you [would elevate the machine above us]. [A motion must be granted for rights…] in the name of humanity fading in the shadow of a machine [...].”

In this country, the United States of America, we consider everyone to be equal and free, but how can that be true when people earn less respect, payment, and are threatened of being stripped of their rights? I would hope that in the band of the free and home of the brave, they would show a little more respect for those who help and work in the country, despite differences. Perhaps equal payment seems as if it’s already in existence, but statistics and women’s paychecks tell the truth of inequality among genders. Women have gathered together, formed rallies and teams to speak for their rights, and most have tried to have laws passed but have failed, as they do not believe in the gender wage gap. We can not, as people, force others to believe something, but perhaps we can suade their point of view and show them the other side. For one will no longer be in the dark if they can figure out how to turn on the light.

Equal Pay for Equal Work

Twitter #equalpay