Millions of Women Would Benefit From a Minimum Wage Hike—Far More than Men


Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-Mich.) at a rally outdoors the U.S. Home on Feb. 8, 2022, calling for a increase to the minimal wage. (Mandel Ngan / AFP through Getty Photographs)

The parade of Equal Pay Days kicked off not too long ago. The dates mark wage gaps for all ladies, Black ladies, Latina women—every another disheartening than the final. However then what? After we stand by the aspect of the street and watch, we return to our lives, uncertain why that is nonetheless occurring, and what to do about it. 

It’s not a easy downside to sort out, that’s for certain—however it’s additionally not unattainable. Let’s begin with the truth, after which have a look at the historical past after which some actions that will supply transformative change. 

First, the wage gaps by gender, race and ethnicity occur in any respect ranges, however the weight on the backside is pulling us all down. The actual fact is that the low-wage workforce is wildly disproportionately made up of employees from traditionally marginalized populations: ladies and folks of coloration.  

When Oxfam not too long ago analyzed knowledge on who earns low wages within the U.S., we have been ready to search out that the low-wage workforce was skewed by race and gender. What we didn’t anticipate are the staggering gaps.

Almost a 3rd of the workforce (32 p.c) is incomes lower than $15 an hour: roughly 52 million employees struggling to get by on lower than $30,000 a 12 months, even now, within the face of surging inflation and skyrocketing fuel costs. 

Merely put, federal regulation has enshrined a double commonplace. It has created a low-wage workforce that regulation ignores and employers exploit. 

Nonetheless, once you drill down, the structural nature of low wages jumps out. Whereas 25 p.c of males earn lower than $15, 40 p.c of girls do. Whereas 26 p.c of white employees earn lower than $15, practically half of Black and Hispanic/Latinx employees do. Girls of coloration? A full 50 p.c earn lower than $15; in some states, it soars to 70 p.c. 

So, how did this occur? It may’t be an accident. And it’s not. It’s the results of a protracted, tangled historical past in our nation, one constructed on structural racism and sexism, together with a legacy of slavery and a damaged immigration system.

It has was a form of occupational segregation so ingrained that it’s grow to be dangerously invisible. Take into account gender: Girls are sometimes employed in jobs contain duties traditionally thought of “ladies’s work”: serving, cooking, cleansing and caring for individuals. And race/ethnicity: Hispanic/Latinx employees make up an enormous a part of the agricultural workforce; ladies of coloration make up many of the employees in home labor. 

And these jobs? Usually fall outdoors the protections supplied within the Honest Labor Requirements Act (FLSA). Employers can nonetheless pay tipped employees (two-thirds feminine) $2.13 an hour (caught since 1991). Farm employees and home employees don’t take pleasure in protections like additional time and rights to prepare that are offered to most employees below the FLSA.  

This isn’t a coincidence—it’s a direct results of discrimination towards these populations. When the FLSA was first handed in 1938, it particularly exempted farm employees and home employees due to stress from Southern legislators who insisted on excluding Black employees. 

Not that the work, and the employees, usually are not important to our financial system and society. These employees harvest, cook dinner and serve our meals, and take care of our kids and fogeys. Their work has worth, they’ve dignity. 

However right here we’re: Merely put, federal regulation has enshrined a double commonplace. It has created a low-wage workforce that regulation ignores and employers exploit. 

And in 2022, it has grow to be nothing lower than a civil rights emergency. Why are we comfy, as a nation, in watching sure communities slide into despair and poverty-even as they’re working arduous—whereas companies and shareholders take pleasure in report income, and executives carry residence report compensation?

It has to cease. Congress ought to do all in its energy to mandate that employers pay wages that don’t depart employees in precarity and even poverty.

On the finish of the day, in mild of this heavy historical past, the place can we go?

Effectively, one answer is easy, and easy: Elevate the federal minimal wage, and set up one common wage. That’s on the desk in Congress, within the type of the Raise the Wage Act—however you received’t be capable of discover it. Whereas it handed the Home, as soon as it entered the Senate it bought misplaced below a blanket of corporate influence and political cowardice.  

States have acted; many massive companies have acted, some saying a $24 hourly starting wage for sure employees. So why is the Senate blocking a bit of laws that will have a transformative impression on wages and well-being of individuals on this nation? 

Elevating the wage to $15 and establishing a common minimal wage would go a good distance towards chipping away on the gender and race wage gaps on this nation. After years of watching the parade, perhaps we are able to lastly do greater than watch: Let’s shift the dates, reward the employees, and worth the work correctly.

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