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July 31 was Black Women’s Equal Pay Day

July 31 was Black Women’s Equal Pay Day, when the earnings of African-American women since January 2016 finally caught up to the average pay earned by white men just in 2016.
By Pablo Ros ·

If you’re an African-American working woman, July 31 was particularly important to you.

That was Black Women’s Equal Pay Day, when the pay of black women finally caught up to that of white men. A black woman had to work from January 2016 until July 31 – putting in an additional seven months of hard work – to make the same amount of money that a white, non-Latino man earned on average in 2016.

As the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) points out in a new article, black women are subjected to two types of pay discrimination: racial and gender. As a result, they are paid only 67 cents on the dollar compared to white men, even if black women have the same levels of education, experience and are in comparable locations as their white, male counterparts.

The problem is less acute among black women who are union members. Black women who belong to a union earn 32.2 percent more per week than their non-union counterparts.

Courtesy of the AFL-CIO

The wage gap for black women has only gotten worse. In 1979, black women earned almost the same as white women. But almost 40 years later, the wages of white women have grown to 76 percent of white men’s, or 9 percent more than those of black women, according to the EPI study mentioned above.

This is despite the fact that black women work more hours than white women. Since 1979, work hours for black women have increased 18.4 percent, yet the wage gap relative to white men continues to grow, EPI found.

The wage gap with white men can only be explained in terms of gender and racial discrimination. As the EPI report points out, two thirds of black women in the workforce have some postsecondary education, and 29.4 percent has a bachelor’s degree.

Also, black women are the most educated group in the country. Yet, not only do black women get paid less than white men at every level of education, but also in all occupations – both female- and male-dominated.

The best way to make progress on closing the wage gap is by joining a union. Being a union member gives workers a voice and the opportunity to negotiate together for fair wages and benefits.

For example, of black women who are union members, 60.9 percent have a pension plan, compared with only 39.6 percent of nonunion black women, according to the AFL-CIO.

AFSCME has long fought for racial and gender parity among its members, and among working families across America. We will never give up the fight.

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