Women might be the key in passing an increase to the federal minimum wage – or at least that’s how New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is trying to frame the wage legislation to her congressional colleagues. She highlighted the issue Tuesday on “Equal Pay Day,” the date to which women would have to work to match the pay men got for the same job last calendar year.
The current pay gap between the sexes stands at about 14% - women on average make $0.77 cents for every dollar earned by men. That number decreases even more for women of color: $0.69 for African American women, and just $0.58 for women of Latina heritage.
Gillibrand opened a conference call Tuesday with a statement breaking down the effect of the current minimum wage in general, but focused on women, who make up 62% of minimum wage earners nationwide:
Gillibrand says an increase to the Minimum Wage to $10.10 an hour would help a lot more women and their families:
“If you care about the future of this country, you care about our children, you really need to raise the minimum wage. There’s too many women who are sole or primary bread winners, who are earning the minimum wage, meaning their children are living in poverty. You know, we’ve always rewarded work in this country. And when you have a minimum wage that is below the poverty line if you have kids, that is not consistent with a shared value that we all believe if you work hard, you can earn your way into the middle class.”
Gillibrand expects a bill to be brought to the table in the Senate this month, along with an Equal Pay Act to increase transparency of pay between men and women in similar jobs. Statistics released by the Senator’s office show in Onondaga County a woman makes $132 less per week on average than her male colleagues.
Gillibrand sees that fact as a problem for small business growth:
“You know, while our economy in New York is still pretty challenged, it’s still pretty tough in a lot of areas, at least the unemployment numbers have come down. I also think that when you raise the minimum wage, you’re really going to help our small businesses because more money is going straight back into the economy – 22 billion dollars will go back into the economy if you raise the minimum wage. So that’s how we keep our main street businesses thriving."
Many of these women are primary earners for their families – in fact, 40% of families (and almost half of families in New York state) count partially or entirely on mothers’ earnings. In addition, more than 19,000 women would benefit from an increased minimum wage.