In Market Square Downtown on April 13, the cost of a PayDay candy bar for women was .75 cents. However, for men, the going rate for the same candy bar, was $1. The gesture was part of the annual Equal Pay Day rally, meant to shed light on the wage gap between men and women.

“We’re going to find our own economic justice. We’re going to find our own change. Change makes economic sense in the lives of our women,” said La’Tasha Mayes, executive director of New Voices Pittsburgh: Women of Color for Reproductive Justice.

EQUAL PAY DAY—African-American women join others of all races in rallying for equal pay. (Photo by J.L. Martello)

“We find ourselves over and over again having to fight for the things we think we’ve already won. Are you going to stand for being three-fourths of a citizen? Are you going to allow women to be second-class citizens in southwestern Pennsylvania?”

According to numbers from the U.S. Census statistics, nationally women earn only 77 percent of what men earn. For the same full-time, full-year working Black women that number falls to 61 percent nationally. These gaps emerge early on according to a study that found a five percent difference in wages between men and women one year after graduating, regardless of differences in majors.

“The gender pay gap is pervasive,” said Margaret McGrath, president of American Association of University Women Pennsylvania. “What message does all of this have for the younger workers?”

In southwestern Pennsylvania women make only 75 percent of what men in the region make. When compared with only White men, Black women in the region make only 70 percent. White women made 76.6 percent and Black men make 78 percent compared to White men.

These numbers do not take into account unemployment figures, only the employed.

“We’ve been holding equal pay rallies since 2005 and we’ve seen a lot of change, but there’s a lot more to do. We’ve been working all year long to pass legislation,” said Heather Arnet, CEO of Women and Girls Foundation of Southwest PA. “So here’s the good news. Today, we make .75 cents per dollar. Nationally those numbers have not changed. But here in Pittsburgh, we’ve been able to catch up to the state number.”

Beyond their call for equal wages, the women at the rally also called for equity in other areas they said contributed to finding economic justice for women, such as reproductive health and public transportation. They also highlighted inequities in government representation where only 17 percent of congress is female and only eight states rank lower than Pennsylvania in the number of women legislators.

“We’re not just here to talk about the wage gap; we’re talking about economic justice. Public transportation is a women’s economic justice issue. My ability to control my reproductive fate is related to economic justice,” Arnet said. “For women and families there is no disconnect between these issues. They are tied.”

They also said women pay 50 percent more for health coverage than men and warned of upcoming government action to reduce government assistance. Among these reductions was the possible elimination of state funded assistance, and assistance to women who have been victims of abuse.

“I’m really tired of hearing this talk,” said Tara Marks, co-director of Just Harvest. “This little money keeps them out of shelters. It keeps them from going back into abusive relationships. These women have courage. Let’s talk about who doesn’t have courage – our governor, Tom Corbett.”

In a show of support, District 8 City Councilman Bill Peduto and District 4 City Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak have pledged to work on getting an audit of city employment to see if employees are being paid equally.

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